Two women charged with bank theft: one pleads guilty; other risks trial

The old First National Bank

McALLEN – With the arrests – one in mid-2016; the other in early 2017 – of two women who used to work at the failed First National Bank of Edinburg, and you look at the allegations against them, it’s impossible not to ask the question: were the bank’s internal auditors; outside auditors; top dogs at the bank, millionaires in their own right; its CEO, who is still in the banking business today, always out to lunch, so to speak?

For sure, the bank had one woman on its staff who has already pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing from the bank approximately $1.25 million, which doesn’t on the surface seem like a big deal, perhaps, until one discovers that the theft took place over a 10-year time-frame, at the approximate rate of $10,000 in stolen cash per month.

When the FDIC finally pulled the plug on First National Bank in 2013, allowing it to finally die, costing its insurance fund an estimated approximate $638 million, PlainsCapital stepped in and purchased $2.6 billion of the almost 80-year-old bank’s assets and assumed $2.4 billion of its liabilities.

If First National Bank hadn’t been shut down in late 2013, would at least one of the women initially accused of theft still be on the job, stealing approximately $10,000 per month with no one batting an eye? Who knows.

Two official press releases appear below (with occasional editorial comments added), both emanating from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.

The first press release concerns Jill Marie Myers, who has already pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced this Thursday, Sept.

21. She was supposed to be sentenced earlier this month, but that was delayed, so if Thursday’s sentencing is delayed as well, no one should be surprised. In federal court, the hands of time often move quicker than do the judiciary.

The second press release concerns the second woman charged with theft from the old First National Bank/new PlainsCapital. Namely, Cynthia Luna Rodriguez. Unlike Myers, she hasn’t confessed to the charges against her, and has instead, chosen to take her case before a federal court jury. She still has time to make a plea deal if she so chooses since her final pre-trial isn’t set until Nov. 29th. Unless she does, she remains innocent until proven guilty.

Like Myers, Rodriguez’s court appearance had been set for earlier this month, but was delayed for unknown reasons.

It should be noted, too, that only after PlainsCapital bought the old First National Bank of Edinburg were the allegations discovered. Leaving one to wonder, if the FDIC hadn’t pulled the lifeline on the old Edinburg-based bank in late 2013, would these two women still be working there, hard at work handling customers’ money?

U.S. Attorneys Office

Press Release

Jan. 31, 2017:

A McAllen woman has entered a guilty plea to falsifying bank records in order to conceal theft of $1.25 million in bank funds, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.  

Jill Marie Myers, 42, was employed as the teller supervisor at the Edinburg branch of First National Bank, later PlainsCapital Bank. Among her duties, she was responsible for verifying the amount of U.S. currency maintained by the bank in its various “cash vaults,” and then entering those amounts at the end of each day into the general ledger of the bank.

 

An investigation into these records revealed that from approximately June 2004 until June 2014, U.S. currency belonging to the bank began to disappear from the vault at an average of $10,000 per month. Myers admitted she created fraudulent entries in bank records in order to conceal theft of $1.25 million in U.S. currency.

 

The scheme was uncovered in June 2014 after PlainsCapital Bank acquired the Edinburg location of First National Bank.

 

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the plea today (Jan. 31, 2017) and has set sentencing for April 26, 2017 (approximately five months later, here we still are). At that time, Myers faced up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine. She has also agreed to pay restitution. Myers was permitted to remain on bond pending her sentencing hearing.

 

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Guerra Jr.is prosecuting the case.

U.S. Attorneys Office

Press Release

July 14, 2016:

McALLEN -- A former bank employee has surrendered to federal authorities following allegations she stole more than $1 million from customer accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.   

Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 43, of Pharr, surrendered this morning and is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan at 10:00 a.m. today.  

 

According to the criminal complaint, filed yesterday and unsealed today (July 14, 2016), Rodriguez worked at PlainsCapital Bank in Edinburg. Following her termination, employees discovered documents at her desk including a 1099 statement belonging to one of the victims, according to the allegations. The statement had allegedly been altered with whiteout over the address and interest earned sections, and new information typed over them. The new address was actually a private mailbox that Rodriguez leased, according to the charges.

 

The criminal complaint alleges there were multiple accounts that had the address information changed. Those accounts allegedly had a significant number of unauthorized withdrawals.  

 

Law enforcement executed a search warrant on Rodriguez’s private mailbox, at which time they discovered multiple mailings to account holders at her private mailbox address.  

 

Further investigation revealed a large amount of unexplained money being deposited into some of Rodriguez’s accounts, corresponding with the time of the unauthorized withdrawals from the victim accounts, according to the charges. The victim accounts allegedly belonged to individuals who interacted with Rodriguez directly when she was employed at the bank. The complaint alleges the accounts primarily belonged to elderly individuals and to individuals living out of the country who were not likely to regularly monitor their accounts. When account holders or their representatives came in to close their statements, Rodriguez would allegedly move money from another victim’s account to backfill the account about to be closed.  

 

A forensic audit conducted by an outside accounting firm determined that approximately $1.3 million was taken from six victim accounts over an eight-year time span, according to the charges.   

 

If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine.

 

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard is prosecuting the case.

Sentencing set for Thursday

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