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Aug. 4, 2011

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Former Compass Bank International Banking Officer Indicted

LAREDO, Texas - A federal grand jury has indicted a former employee of Compass Bank in Laredo, Texas, for bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions arising from an alleged scheme involving more than $8 million in losses to bank customers, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

A Laredo grand jury returned a 73-count indictment on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, charging Celina Villarreal, 35, with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to launder money, 48 substantive counts of bank fraud and 22 counts of unlawful money transactions. According to the indictment, in January 2009, while employed as an International Banking Officer at Compass Bank, Villarreal allegedly began taking money without authorization from the accounts of five bank customers. She allegedly transferred the money to another account for her own use and that of others. According to the indictment, during a 12-month period ending in December 2009, more than $8 million was taken from the customers’ accounts. The money was used, according to the indictment, to purchase vehicles, personal items and a condominium on South Padre Island as well as to invest in various business ventures, including the promotion of rock concerts. 

The bank terminated Villarreal employment when a bank audit uncovered the losses and reported the incident to the United States Secret Service (USSS). Villarreal was arrested today by USSS agents at her home. She is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker on Friday, Aug. 5 at 9 a.m.   
Each count of bank fraud carries a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years imprisonment. The money laundering charges, including the conspiracy to commit money laundering charge, carry a maximum 10-year statutory sentence. Each of the offenses charged are also punishable by substantial fines – $1 million for a bank fraud conviction and $250,000 for the money laundering charges. There is no parole in the federal system.

USSS investigated this case with the assistance of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diana Song and Tom Calhoun-Lopez are prosecuting the case.  

Indictments are formal accusations of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.