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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Victims startled by $10.5 million embezzlement scheme at Jacksonville's Fifth Third Bank

A Jacksonville woman whose family lost and then got back nearly $6 million embezzled from their account at a Jacksonville bank remains bitter nearly a year after the crime was discovered.
“Hell, yes,” said the woman, 66, about her feelings of anger. “My husband has worked six days a week for his whole life since he was 14 and here he’s taking care of our family and finally decided he could retire and this guy steals all of his money.”

The guy, prosecutors said, is ex-Fifth Third Bank vice president and private banker Christopher David Boston, who is set to appear in federal court in Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon to enter a plea of guilty to bank fraud in the theft of $10.5 million from the bank’s north Mandarin branch.

Court records show Boston, 40, has already signed a plea agreement and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He has not been arrested, but Wednesday’s hearing is scheduled to serve as an initial appearance where bail could be set.

Boston is accused of operating a bank fraud scheme that included stealing $10.5 million from at least one corporate account and transferring money from at least two individual accounts to cover the original thefts. The embezzlement occurred over 3 1/2 years ending in April 2013.

Court records show that Boston used $210,000 to make $2,000 monthly mortgage payments on his family’s Mandarin home, install a backyard pool and for other expenses.

Prosecutors said Boston used the rest of the money to help his customers, and ultimately his own standing in the bank, with favors such as paying off troubled loans and making “off-book” loans to those whose applications had been denied.

The bank replenished the embezzled accounts and had arranged new loans with Boston’s customers, recovering all but about $2 million, which is federally insured, court records show.

Boston could not be reached to comment and his defense attorney, former State Attorney Harry Shorstein, has declined to comment, as have prosecutors.

The woman is the first victim of the scheme to speak publicly about the theft, which she said involved money her husband made by selling his family manufacturing business early last year. The victim and her husband are well-known in the community for their philanthropy. She asked that she not be identified for her protection because of the amount of money taken and returned.

The woman said she and her husband first learned about the trouble when they went to the bank near closing time one day last April to have a statement notarized for a real estate deal. A bank official — not Boston, who worked closely with the husband — said he noticed some unusual activity in their account from the previous night.

The couple saw on a computer screen that all but $120,000 of their $6 million had been transferred out of the account.

“My husband kind of turned white,” the woman said. “I figured they made a mistake and put it somewhere and they would put it back.”

She said the bank official didn’t have an immediate explanation but assured the couple not to worry. She said the man and others at the bank scrambled for answers while the couple waited. She said Boston called, apparently in response to a call from the bank to him, and he talked by speaker to the official who broke the news.

“He [the official] let him know we were in there,” the woman said. “He [Boston] said, ‘Well, I’m out sick.’ ”

She said the conversation ended abruptly and bank officials told the couple they would try to get answers the next day. She said an executive with the bank’s corporate office in Cincinnati made arrangements to meet with her husband. She said the executive told her husband about the embezzlement and that multiple individual accounts were affected.

The bank put the money back in their account within a few days and officials pleaded with them to keep it there. But the couple was concerned that the scheme had gone on for so long and her husband decided to move most of the money elsewhere after having banked there for 15 years.

“It was a stake through our heart,” the woman said. “How could you trust somebody that did that to you?”

The woman said she still doesn’t understand how most of the stolen money was used to help other customers, as prosecutors have said.

“This was not Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor,” she said. “He was about to make us suicidal.”

1 comment:

  1. Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Thanks for sharing you knowledge :)