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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Poor Oversight Blamed for $320K Embezzlement

Due to a lack of oversight at a small Illinois credit union, two employees were able to embezzle more than $320,000 in separate incidents that spanned many years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Kimberly Kent, 53, a former manager at the $4.2 million Milledgeville Community Credit Union who also served as an elected official for a small Illinois town, was sentenced July 14 to eight months in federal prison for embezzling more than $220,000 from the credit union from 2005 to 2012, the court documents said.

In addition to prison, Kent was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and a $5,000 fine.

Kelsey Selman, 37, a former teller at the 850-member institution in Milledgeville, Ill., who admitted embezzling more than $100,000 from 2007 to 2012, was sentenced in May to two days in prison, three years of supervised release and a $4,000 fine, the documents said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini, who prosecuted both cases, stated in court that the two women, who were among three employees at the credit union, took advantage of the institution’s minimal oversight.

In an interview with CU Times, Paccagnini said one of the most unusual aspects of the cases is that both women have already repaid the credit union for money stolen.

“Both of them paid back the money as they resigned,” he said.

In addition to $231,823.15 in restitution Kent already paid to the credit union, she was ordered to pay $10,176.72 in restitution to Milledgeville Community Credit Union and $5,278.75 to Wysox Township to cover investigative costs, Paccagnini said.

The latest two cases follow a string of internal fraud allegations recently uncovered at Illinois credit unions. Other recent cases include Paul C. Smith, a former president of Laclede Community Credit Union and former treasurer of a Illinois Credit Union League chapter, who recently pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to using the chapter’s debit card for almost $60,000 in personal expenses over five years. Charles Juska, former president of the $25 million Tazewell County School Employees Credit Union in Pekin, Ill., recently pleaded not guilty to misapplying more than $500,000.

In the latest case at Milledgeville Community CU, both former employees pleaded guilty earlier this year.

In Selman’s plea agreement, the ex-teller confessed to applying fake credits to her personal account, which caused the credit union’s records to falsely reflect that her cash drawer increased by an amount to offset the deposit into her account.

In the other case, Kent, who also served as treasurer of Wysox Township, admitted in a plea agreement that she used fraudulent loans and town funds to conceal her fraud at the credit union.

Prosecutors say the contrast in sentencing is due to the extent of the crimes and the attempts to conceal the fraud.
Although Kent and Selman stole the money for personal use, Kent went to great lengths to conceal her crime and may have purposely covered up Selman’s fraud, the documents said.

To conceal her own fraud, Kent created fictitious loans and certificates of deposits using names of family members, the documents said.

After being elected treasurer of Wycox Township in 2009, Kent began using the town’s accounts at the credit union to cover her embezzlement, the plea agreement said.

For almost two years, she moved money into and out of Wysox Township’s accounts at the credit union, transferring a total of $175,000 from a township account to cover up her credit union fraud, the court records said.

After it became clear that the credit union would uncover her illegal activity, Kent resigned and provided information to the auditor.

Both women faced a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, up to five years of supervised release and up to $1 million each in fines.

During the sentencing hearing for Kent, an attorney representing the former manager requested a lighter sentence due to Kent’s “good character, cooperation, payment of restitution in full prior to criminal charges being commenced and her psychological diagnosis,” the court documents said.

A doctor who testified at Kent’s sentencing said the former manager embezzled because she believed it was a family need and want, which stems from her family history, and that she would pay back the funds, the court documents said.

However, Kent and her defense team did not explain how someone with a diminished capacity could go to such great lengths to conceal their crime, the documents said.

In response, prosecutors cautioned the court to not overlook the fact that defendant committed the crimes over the course of many years.

Prosecutors said the sentencing needed to reflect the seriousness of the crime, promote

respect for the  law, provide just punishment for the offense and deter criminal conduct by others.

Although defendants may be entitled to lower sentences if they have a significantly impaired ability that causes lack of restraint to control wrongful behavior, there must be a link between the defendant’s diminished capacity and the commission of the offense to warrant a lower sentence, prosecutors said.

“While defendant characterizes herself as law abiding, she fails to account for the more than six years of her life that included the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month taking of monies from the credit union,” prosecutors stated in the court documents. “As a supervisor with no oversight, defendant’s actions went unchecked and the government has little doubt that but for the other employee’s embezzlement, defendant’s embezzlement would be ongoing to this day.”

Unlike Selman, who stole from her teller drawer and did not conceal her illegal activity, Kent created fictitious loans and certificates of deposit, and used other accounts and her position as an elected official and credit union manager to move money in order to hide her illegal activity.

“Such actions do not evidence someone operating with a diminished capacity,” prosecutors stated.                                              

“The government also notes that it is likely defendant knew of the other employee’s embezzlement and did nothing to avoid scrutiny on the credit union that would possibly reveal her own embezzlement,” the documents said. “The credit union’s system at times identified such large amounts of supposed cash on hand in the other employee’s teller drawer that defendant would have to have noticed.”

At one point, Kent electronically lowered Selman’s cash drawer amount, the documents aid.

In addition, Kent wrote the letter of resignation for Selman, which the former teller copied word for word, the documents stated.

During Kent’s sentencing, prosecutors also shot down another attempt for sympathy and leniency.

“The government has no doubt that defendant’s crime has brought unwanted community attention to her family and that her imprisonment will have an adverse impact on her family,” the court documents said. “An adverse impact on family is, sadly, a natural consequence of an individual’s decision to engage in criminal activity. When an individual is incarcerated, it is expected that his family life will suffer.”

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