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Monday, January 17, 2011

Police: Woman embezzled $30,000 from Bartlesville, Oklahoma bank

A Bartlesville woman, an employee of a Bartlesville bank, is accused of embezzling nearly $30,000 from the accounts of four elderly bank customers.

Patricia L. Swearingin, 53, seen in Washington County District Court Thursday, faces charges of 10 counts of embezzlement by an employee and one count of financial exploitation of elderly persons.

During the hearing, the judge set her bond to $5,000 with a condition of no contact with Osage Federal Bank. She posted bond late that afternoon.

Osage Federal Bank Chief Executive Officer Mark White told BarlesvilleLIVE on Friday Swearingin's employment was terminated a month ago.

"She was finished as soon as we found out what we determined were some suspicious activities had been investigated," he said. "That was the end of the employment."

White said all customers were immediately reimbursed.

According to the affidavit, the investigation that led up to her began on Dec. 9 when a police investigator went to Osage Federal Bank located on the 3300 block of S.E. Frank Phillips Blvd to speak with the chief financial officer about a possible embezzlement case at the bank.

The officer told police that Swearingin, who had been employed with the bank more than 10 years, had embezzled between $50,000 and $100,000 from the bank.

He said he learned of the activity after receiving an e-mail from a bank customer's son reporting money missing from his mother's CD.

Learning that Swearingin had been the only individual in the bank to order checks for the account, he pulled video surveillance for the time when a check was cashed from the account and saw Swearingin write a check in her office and walk it to the drive-through window where it was then cashed. The officer told police no car was at the drive-though, nor did the customer visit the bank that day.

Further investigation by the bank officer revealed “many more such transactions of … elderly people with similar accounts” being done. He explained that in each case, the money taken was interest off of accounts from CDs.

The police investigator, returning to the bank on Dec. 27, was given a spreadsheet listing unauthorized withdrawals as confirmed by the owners of the accounts. A total of ten checks were cashed between August and November — the loss from the bank totaling $29,397.29, according to the police report.

The report said the average age of the alleged victims was 82.6 years-old.

Through a warrant served to search bank records for Swearingin's account at another bank, the investigator found that of the 13 deposits made from Aug. 20 to Nov. 24, eight deposits were made the same day money was taken from Osage Federal Bank. Between those dates, a total of $19,950 was deposited “on or within a couple days of the theft at Osage Bank,” said the affidavit.

Police next spoke to Swearingin who denied any wrongdoing. She reportedly said she won the money at a casino and said she had deposited the money into the above mentioned bank account “so she could claim a loss with the government for gambling by writing the casino a check at the casino.”

Asked if she was saying she was defrauding the government, she reportedly said “not to put it that way.”

Police further interviewed the drive-through window tellers who had cashed the checks for Swearingin. They all said Swearingin would ask them to cash the checks — that she would explain she had a customer waiting and the tellers in the lobby were busy.

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