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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Former Citizens Bank manager in New York found guilty of embezzling $410,000

A former bank manager embezzled $410,000 in cash from a safe deposit box, a federal jury said Friday night.Thomas Cararo, 40, former manager of Citizens Bank in downtown Binghamton, showed little emotion at the verdict, announced at 6 p.m., just four hours after jury deliberations began in U.S. District Court in Binghamton.
There also was little reaction from Leonard Wilcox, the 79-year-old Dickinson heavy equipment dealer who accused Cararo of taking his cash.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. McAvoy set sentencing for Oct. 8.
Cararo will remain free pending sentencing, the judge said. He could get up to 30 years on one federal count of embezzlement but is more likely to get up to four years under federal sentencing guidelines.
"I'm just really happy for Mr. Wilcox and his family," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Walsh. "It's really been a long road for him."
Whether Wilcox will ever recover any of the $410,000 in missing cash is still unanswered.
A federal civil jury last year awarded $410,000 in damages to Wilcox and blamed Cararo for the loss.
Pursuit of the money continues to be handled in federal civil court, Walsh said.
The jury in the criminal case heard testimony for four days. Midway through deliberations Friday, they asked the judge for a calculator, and with the approval of both defense and prosecution, the judge got them a calculator. It was the only request made by the jury.
Cararo's attorney, Lisa Peebles, a federal public defender from Syracuse, said after the verdict was announced that she was disappointed by Friday's outcome.
"The testimony indicated that Mr. Wilcox was not an honest man," Peebles said. "The case rested on his word and the word of his daughter."
Wilcox testified this week that he kept about $484,000 in cash in a floor safe in his garage. But in 2006 flooding, the cash was soaked and contaminated by sewage. Wilcox testified he took the money to exchange it for new money at the Chenango Bridge branch of Citizens Bank, where Cararo was then the branch manager.

Bank records show about $150,000 in damaged or contaminated money was exchanged. However, tellers at the bank testified this week that they exchanged thousands in cash with Wilcox that wasn't recorded as damaged.
Wilcox testified he took hundreds of thousand of dollars in a shopping bag in October 2006 to the 84 Court St. location of Citizens Bank, where Cararo was transferred as bank manager.
Wilcox put the cash in a safe deposit box, he testified. When he returned on Nov. 7, 2007, to check on his money, the box had been re-drilled and re-keyed. When box No. 418 was opened, all that remained of the $410,000 was $74,000, Wilcox testified.
Banks do not insure the contents of safe deposit boxes, bank officials testified during the trial. Nor do banks want to know what customers keep in the boxes. Using the boxes for cash is not encouraged, officials testified.
Cararo left Citizens in August 2007 for a job with Bank of America in North Carolina. Box No. 418 was drilled and re-keyed in June 2007 at the direction of Cararo, testimony indicated.
An FBI investigation of Cararo's bank records showed Cararo used cash payments of up to $65,000 to pay for home improvements and renovations, as well as furniture, at two houses he owned in the Town of Dickinson. However, the FBI investigation could not account for the amount of cash Cararo was alleged to have taken, Peebles told jurors.

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