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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Former Hartsburg State Bank president headed to federal prison in Illinois

Bryson John Russell, 66, of Lincoln pleaded guilty in February to stealing money from the bank, starting in 1992, three years after he was named president. In documents filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, prosecutors outlined 19 loans Russell took out starting in 2001 in the names of various bank customers. The loans ranged from $1,000 to $124,000.

“When those loans became due, Russell would create different, larger loans in names of relatives and other bank customers to pay off those due, as well as to embezzle additional money,” according to a sentencing commentary written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Hansen.

The former bank executive also cashed a $15,000 certificate of deposit belonging to a bank customer and applied the proceeds to a loan he had taken out in another customer’s name, according to Hansen.

After he was removed as president, Russell agreed to answer federal investigators’ questions about shortfalls in accounts with a Texas bank that handled deposits and payments to other financial institutions on behalf of the Hartsburg bank.

Russell admitted to making false entries to cover up for cash he took from the bank’s vault, according to court documents.

The loss involved more than money, the prosecutor said in his sentencing comments.

“It is incredibly troubling when the perpetrator is in charge of all of the daily operations of the bank. Particularly in a small town, such as Hartsburg, the trust of the citizens is critical for the operation of a financial institution.”

Given the condition of Russell’s personal finances, it is unlikely he will be able to make full restitution, the prosecutor noted.

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