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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Downtown Tulare, California bank manager faces embezzlement allegations

A downtown Tulare bank manager faces embezzlement allegations, but police won’t say if an arrest was made when officers served a warrant Wednesday morning.

Jeri Sell, the 2008 Tulare Woman of the Year, faces the allegation stemming, in part, from a 2008 lawsuit filed in Tulare County Superior Court. The suit alleges embezzlement involving night deposits at the bank.
“Jeri Sell was the manager,” said attorney Frank Nunes. “One would believe everything that happens is reported to her.”
Nunes is representing Gloria McCauslin, the owner of VIP Pizza, who filed the civil suit.
On Wednesday, Tulare police officers and members of the California Department of Justice served a warrant at the Citizens Business Bank, 256 North K St., but officials wouldn’t comment further.
Tulare police Sgt. Richard House said no additional information was being released.
But according to Tulare City Councilman Phil Vandegrift, the search warrant was served as part of a criminal investigation. Sell’s home also was being searched, Vandegrift said.
Sell couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Personnel at the Tulare and Visalia bank branches said they had no comment.
In a released statement, the bank acknowledged the police investigation, but provided no additional information and did not identify Sell as the person being investigated.
“Citizens Business Bank has been made aware that there is a pending criminal investigation of a bank employee,” said Chris Myers, Citizens Business Bank president and CEO. “There is no reason to believe that bank assets are involved, and the bank intends to cooperate fully with the authorities.”
Bank personnel provided no additional information.
Nunes said the police investigation and the lawsuit are separate instances. In the lawsuit, McCauslin alleges $47,000 in unaccounted-for night deposits. She alleges money was stolen before being credited.
She’s also suing for attorney’s fees and emotional stress, Nunes said. A jury trial has been set for July 12.
Although mediation has been attempted, the matter is likely going to trial. At this time, it’s unknown if police officers will testify for the civil lawsuit.
“I don’t know the outcome of their investigation,” he said. “It’s too early to tell.”
But it’s common practice for sworn law enforcement personnel to testify in civil matters, Nunes said.
Vandegrift lamented finding out about the allegations against Sell.
“We hope it’s wrong,” he said. “Jeri has always been a very civic-minded person. But police have to follow up on their investigation. They need to investigate and find out the truth.”

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