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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bank embezzlement trial gets underway

Testimony began today in the federal trial of a former bank manage accused of stealing $336,000 from his bank.
Michael Bernick, 50, of Stanton Heights, former director of Metropolitan Savings Bank in Lawrenceville, was charged in March with theft, embezzlement and misappropriation by a bank officer following an FBI investigation.
Agents said Mr. Bernick paid himself from the bank's money in the form of checks and wire transfers between April 2005 and March 2007.
The former vice president of the bank, Donna Shebetich, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false reports with regulators to hide the bank's dire finances. The bank was shut down in 2007.
Shebetich is serving six years in federal prison. She was also ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution.

As other banks started foreclosing on his rental properties, a former director of a defunct Lawrenceville community bank used his position to siphon more than $401,000 to save those properties, a federal prosecutor said on Monday in federal court.

Michael P. Bernick, 51, of Stanton Heights was partially responsible for the failure of the historic Metropolitan Savings Bank, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bloch told a federal jury during opening statements in Bernick's criminal trial.

“This was a sum of money that, you will hear, threatened the bank's very existence,” she said.
A federal grand jury indicted Bernick on 10 counts of theft, embezzlement or misappropriation by a bank officer. Each count carries a possible sentence of 30 years in prison.

Bernick's attorney, James Brink, denied that Bernick was trying to steal from the bank.
He used an informal loan process that several other bank officials used, he said. They would get the money first and submit paperwork later on. The FDIC in 2007 came in and seized the bank before Bernick could file the paperwork on loans he took out in 2005 and 2006, Brink said.

“Sloppy? Yes,” Brink said. “Was it proper? Probably not. But he just took advantage of what everyone else was doing.”

Bernick became a customer of the bank in 2002 and obtained three legitimate loans. Then he began dating Donna Shebetich, the bank's vice president, and became one of the bank's directors in 2004, Bloch said.

When Bernick started taking money out of the bank, neither he nor Shebetich mentioned it to the other directors during their monthly board meetings, she said.

Shebetich, 49, pleaded guilty in June 2011 to filing false reports with bank regulators to disguise the bank's poor financial condition before it suddenly shut down in February 2007.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab in November 2011 sentenced her to six years in prison, five years of probation and ordered her to pay $10.2 million in restitution to the FDIC and 24 other individuals and businesses.

The trial is scheduled to continue for most of the week.

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