HOUSTON - The President of a local area bank, in a small suburb north of Houston, realized one of his employees was violating company policy by providing "financial favors" for some of her clients. He fired the employee and initiated an audit of her accounts. When the audit revealed some unexplained activity, it was expanded at which time approximately $30,000 was discovered missing from the General Ledger. The Bank President contacted the local police department who advised him they had neither the time, nor the resources, to handle such an in-depth investigation. Police officials referred the banker to Mark W. Stephens, a former white collar crimes Detective for the Houston Police Department with training and experience in financial fraud investigations.

Mr. Stephens met with bank officials and was provided with the facts of the case thus far. Confident he could solve the case, Mr. Stephens accepted the case and quickly initiated his own investigation. One of the first questions Mr. Stephens asked was had the bank performed a pre-employment background check on this particular employee. The answer was "no," prompting Mr. Stephens to conduct his own research into her background.

By researching bank records, it was discovered that the former bank employee had diverted funds from the General Ledger by falsifying two Cashier’s Checks. The Cashier’s Checks were made payable to the former employee, with the Remitter of each check being former clients of hers, through her employment with the bank. Mr. Stephens identified several witnesses and potential witnesses and contacted each individual, obtaining verbal statements and sworn affidavits as to their knowledge of the incident. The Remitter listed on each instrument denied, under oath, any involvement in the scheme to unlawfully appropriate money from the bank, and agreed to testify against the former employee if needed. They both gave statements that indicated the former bank employee used their names on the Cashier’s Checks without their knowledge or permission.

Meanwhile, the results of the background investigation of the former bank employee were astonishing. Mr. Stephens discovered that the former employee was currently serving a four-year term of Probation for a previous felony theft conviction in Harris County, Texas. Upon checking the previous case, he discovered that the former employee had been an employee at another area bank and had been caught embezzling money from that bank. When her criminal act was discovered and she was fired from the first bank, she simply moved on and got a job at the second bank. She had been working at the second bank for some time, when she was finally charged with the first criminal offense of theft. She then negotiated a deal with officials, whereby she would receive probation if she returned the stolen money. With the deal in place, she simply embezzled more money from the second bank to pay back the first bank, and secure a probated sentence, which kept her out of jail.

With this overwhelming evidence in hand, Mr. Stephens contacted the former bank employee and persuaded her to submit to an interview. During the course of the interview, Mr. Stephens presented the facts to the former employee and she confessed to the crime. Within thirty days of initiating the investigation, Mr. Stephens had obtained a written confession from the former bank employee, and compiled an investigative report that documented every aspect of the incident. Mr. Stephens then met with officials from the Harris County District Attorney’s office and personally presented the case on behalf of the bank. The investigation was presented to a Grand Jury and the former bank employee was indicted for the criminal offense of felony theft.

Because the former employee was currently serving Probation for the previous criminal offense, the new case was automatically set in the same State District Court as the prior case, meaning she had to appear before the same Judge. Presented with the extremely thorough investigative report compiled by Mr. Stephens, which documented the facts of the case in great detail, including the former employee’s written confession, the defense attorney advised his client to plead guilty to the criminal charge, for a term of four years in prison that was recommended by prosecutors. However, the Judge took into consideration the investigation conducted by Mr. Stephens and the fact that the former bank employee had been untruthful, and sentenced her to six years in prison instead of the recommended sentence.

Even though the bank officials were delighted with the conviction and prison sentence, Mr. Stephens showed some disappointment.

"I’m happy with the outcome of the trial, because I really believe this person belongs in prison for the crimes that she committed. I would have been much happier if I could have recovered some of the bank’s money. Unfortunately, the defendant no longer had the money and did not have enough assets that we could attach. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but it was still a great outcome for everyone involved." Everyone, that is, except the thief".


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