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Feb. 10, 2010

FORMER BANK OPERATIONS SUPERVISOR PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING FROM LOCAL BANK’S UTILITY FUNDS

(LAREDO, Texas) – Norma Vargas, 41, a former operations supervisor of a local bank, has pleaded guilty to defrauding her former employer of more than $190,000 during the last two years of her employment, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Vargas appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker late yesterday and pleaded guilty to bank fraud. She admitted to having used her position as the Operations Supervisor of International Bank of Commerce to divert $192,580.51 from two bank utility accounts into her personal savings account beginning in October 2007 until the scheme was discovered in early September 2009. Vargas was responsible for overseeing the utility accounts payable of all IBC branches. The accounts included an electricity utility bills account and a phone and data utility accounts payable. Judge Hacker recommended Vargas’ guilty plea be accepted by United States District Judge Micaela Alvarez.
 
At the time an internal bank audit discovered the suspicious activity, the bank recouped $10,464.64 from Vargas’ personal savings and checking accounts as partial restitution. During interviews with agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Vargas admitted to filling out the debit and deposits slips for more than 29 different transactions between October 2007 to August 2009,  diverting money from the bank’s phone/data accounts payable and electricity accounts into her personal saving without the bank’s knowledge or authorization. As part of her agreement with the United States, Vargas has agreed to make full restitution of the balance owed to the bank -- $182,1115.87 -- and to withdraw the balance from her employee profit-sharing plan and trust in a lump sum to be allocated to meet that obligation. International Bank of Commerce is a federally insured depository bank headquartered in Laredo. An additional term of Vargas’ agreement with the United States requires Vargas agree to an order of prohibition from further participation with business associated with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.    

A conviction for bank fraud carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and a fine of not more than $1 million. Sentencing is set for April 29, 2010. Vargas has been remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service pending her sentencing hearing. 

The case was investigated by agents from the United States Secret Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Diana Song and James Ustynoski.

 

 

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