Vickie Diane Becker Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on March 6, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, VICKIE DIANE BECKER, a 49-year-old resident of Hardin, was arraigned and pled guilty to bank fraud and money laundering. Sentencing is set for June 10, 2009. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
BECKER was a Vice President of First Interstate Bank at the branch located in Hardin. Beginning on or about September 18, 2002, and continuing into November 2007, BECKER used her position at the bank to obtain loans she was not entitled to. She obtained these loans in two main ways. First, BECKER approved loans for individuals who could not have legitimately qualified for the loan and subsequently told the "borrowers" that she (BECKER) would receive the proceeds from these loans and make all the payments. These individuals typically assented to BECKER receiving the proceeds and making the payments on the loans. However, the named individual on the loans only qualified for the loan because BECKER used her position to get authorization for the funding which she ultimately benefitted from, unbeknownst to the bank.
Secondly, BECKER created, approved and received loans in the names of friends and family members who were not aware of the loan or the loan proceeds. Again, BECKER used her position at the bank to get the loans approved and then benefitted from the loan proceeds. BECKER then engaged in a sophisticated "loan kite" whereby she used proceeds from one loan to pay for personal expenses in addition to making payments on other loans she had benefitted from. In addition, BECKER periodically raised the lending limit on these loans, allowing her to draw advances from the extra available principal.
In total, BECKER managed payments to and from approximately ten different loans and lines of credit and cycled millions of dollars in loan proceeds through the kite. Money was periodically and systematically moved between the loan accounts and her husband's business accounts under the name Becker's Flooring Inc. Occasionally, BECKER claimed that a loan or payment was made for remodeling or other services provided by Becker's Flooring, when in reality no services were ever provided and this explanation was only a ruse designed to cover the fraud.
Beginning in August 2007, BECKER authorized a loan for a family friend. The loan was initially funded at $45,000. This loan was systematically increased to $187,326.81 by November 9, 2007. The friend was not aware of this loan, did not authorize this loan, never signed any loan agreement and never made any payments on this loan. The friend also advised that she would not have qualified for such a sizable loan given her financial condition. Instead, investigation revealed that BECKER created and processed this loan, signed documents to push the loan through, periodically increased credit limits, and used the proceeds for her own personal benefit and to further the loan kite.
Concerning the money laundering offense, investigation revealed that on November 8, 2007, BECKER withdrew $55,000 in an advance on the friend's line of credit. BECKER transferred this money into the Becker Flooring Inc. checking account. She subsequently transferred this money once more, after laundering it through the Becker Flooring checking account, to make a $55,000 payment on a Becker Flooring Inc. loan.
BECKER faces possible penalties of 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and 5 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan M. Archer prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.