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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ex-bank employee scheduled to plead to embezzlement in Warren, Maine

The woman suspected of embezzling about $750,000 from various customers at Camden National Bank is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next week in federal court.

Christina L. Torres-York of Warren is scheduled to enter the pleas to embezzlement and misapplication of funds from Camden National Bank, according to a Jan. 5 letter sent from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland to one of the alleged victims. The victim, who asked that her/his identity not be disclosed, provided The Herald-Gazette with a copy of the letter.
A second alleged victim also confirmed receiving a letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"Our office wishes to inform you that based upon our investigation into this matter, it appears there may have been an unauthorized or improperly documented transaction or transactions involving your account(s) at Camden National Bank. This does not mean that your account(s) necessarily incurred any net reduction or loss," the letter stated.
"Nevertheless, we are providing this notice based upon information that your account(s) may have had unauthorized activity in them some time during a period spanning the spring of 2007 into the fall of 2009," the letter stated.
Jonathan Chapman with the U.S. Attorney's Office said that the office cannot comment on any case that has not been publicly filed. No criminal complaint had been filed in U.S. District Court in Portland as of Jan. 7.
Chapman said in other cases, complaints could be filed in advance of a hearing or on the day of the plea. He had no comment on the Torres-York matter.
Torres-York was employed by Camden National Bank for nearly 20 years until she was fired on Oct. 16, 2009, when the bank learned she had withdrawn $749,402 from at least five customers' lines of credit, according to a lawsuit filed by Camden National.
A judge agreed to place a $750,000 lien on Torres-York's property for Camden National's claims and an $82,940 lien on behalf of the Maine Contractors and Builders Alliance Inc. That organization, a statewide builders association, filed its own civil lawsuit against Torres-York.
Torres-York was hired by Camden National Bank in 1990. She worked as a loan officer at its Waldoboro bank. As a loan officer, Torres-York had access to individual bank customers' lines of credit. The bank policy, however, is that a withdrawal from lines of credit must be authorized by the customer.
On Oct. 16, 2009, it came to the bank's attention that Torres-York had been withdrawing funds from customers' lines of credit, according to the bank's lawsuit. She was immediately fired.
The lawsuit states that to date the bank has determined that Torres-York made unauthorized withdrawals from at least five bank customers' lines of credit. The amount totaled $749,402.
On Oct. 19, 2009, the bank discovered a letter from Torres-York that was left in a night depository box. In the letter, according to the lawsuit, she confessed that she "used several lines of credit" and that she was "terribly sorry for the embarrassment [she] caused for Camden National Bank and [her] family."
"I am relieved that this is finally over as I have struggled for a long time with this and it has caused me to not be able to concentrate on my work," her letter stated, according to the bank's lawsuit.
She disbursed the money to eight different accounts. One improper disbursement was for $355,000.
She described how she would like to make partial restitution and said that the ones who scream to get their fees back should get the money from her 401(k) retirement account.
"Again I am so sorry it became a mess," her letter stated, according to the lawsuit. "I will not be in at 8, as I can not hold up my head any longer, ashamed at what has happened and what I have done to so many people that trusted me."
The builders alliance filed a lawsuit Jan. 21, 2010, in Knox County Superior Court in Rockland against Torres-York, claiming she used her position as the organization's treasurer and as an employee of Camden National to siphon off $82,940.
"We struggled. We almost went out of business," the association's president Charlie Huntington said late last year of the impact that the loss of the money had on the alliance.
The alliance's president said the organization had built one home and was well into building another with the assumption that it had sufficient equity in the first structure to complete the second home. That is when the organization learned that Torres-York had taken money from the alliance.
Torres-York served as volunteer treasurer for the Maine Contractors and Builders Alliance for several years until she resigned from the post under threat of removal on Nov. 13, 2009, according to the alliance's lawsuit.
The alliance maintained a checking account at Camden National, a checking account at Bangor Savings Bank, and a line of credit at Bangor Savings. The lawsuit cited several instances of her withdrawing money from the Bangor Savings account held by the association made out to Camden National but the money was never deposited in the Camden National accounts.
The association's checks that Torres-York made out to Camden National were cashed by her at Camden National and she took the cash, the association's lawsuit states.
The association stated that when it heard about the large misappropriation of money from Camden National it checked with Torres-York and learned she was the subject of the investigation. The organization was soon contacted by law enforcement officials.
Torres-York was asked to resign from the association and she did.
Huntington said the bank's position is that Torres-York took the alliance's money through her role as the organization's treasurer and not her position as a bank employee. The alliance's president said, however, that she would not have been able to do what she did if not for her position with the bank.

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