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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two ex-tellers get probation in separate bank theft cases in Illinois

Two former tellers involved in separate thefts while working for a Holiday Shores bank have been given probation and orders of restitution to pay back thousands of dollars.
The second of the tellers, Jamie L. Gajewski, was accused of stealing nearly $90,000. She pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony theft in exchange for a sentence of three years of probation.

Authorities said the deal was made possible, in part, by the willingness of Robert Behme, owner of Behme's Market in Holiday Shores, to go along with it.

Behme told authorities he felt sorry for the defendant and just wanted his money back.

Gajewski, 29, of the 1200 block of Nassau Drive, Holiday Shores, pleaded guilty in Madison County Circuit Court to one felony count of theft over $10,000, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

She had no previous criminal record.

Gajewski was a teller at First National Bank of Staunton, Assistant Madison County State's Attorney Rachelle Crowe said.

In a statement read in court, Crowe said that, had there been a trial, store employees, police and bank officials would have testified and proved that the store employees were taking the bank deposits to the bank each evening, but Gajewski was pocketing some of the money.

Gajewski would make up a deposit slip to cover the difference between the amount put in the account and the amount the employees took to the bank.

The thefts occurred between January 2011 and Jan. 23 of this year. Behme started noticing shortages in the store's account and asked police to investigate. Crowe said the investigation revealed all the short transactions were traced to Gajewski as teller.

The Madison County Sheriff's Department handled the investigation.

Gajewski was charged in March. The original charge alleged she took $37,000, but a further investigation set the amount at nearly $90,000.

Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli accepted the agreement for the three years of probation and set the restitution at exactly $89,923. Gajewski also will have to pay court costs and the cost of probation.

The defendant posted $6,000 cash bond shortly after she was charged and has remained free on bond since.

Gajewski was represented by defense attorney John Stobbs of Alton.

"She is very sorry for what she did, and she is thankful that the victim was willing to go along with the agreement," Stobbs said. "For the rest of her life, she will have a felony on her record, and that will make it very difficult to get another job."

Gajewski was the second teller this year to be charged in a major theft case involving the Holiday Shores branch of the bank.

Lori A. Surgant, 51, also of Holiday Shores, was charged Feb. 7 and pleaded guilty in July.

Surgant was accused of stealing more than $7,000 from the bank, which reported suspicions to the Sheriff's Department after an internal audit.

She was ordered to pay $7,246 in restitution as part of her plea agreement.

In Surgant's case, the Sheriff's Department initially was contacted Jan. 26. Sheriff's Department officials said their investigation showed Surgant was suspected of stealing the money from Nov. 1, 2011, through Jan. 20 of this year.

The thefts reportedly occurred during Surgant's normal shifts as a teller and initially were discovered because of a shortage in her drawer.

Surgant worked at the bank for eight years.

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