News and Press Releases

Former Bank Employee Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case

Oct. 31, 2011

LAREDO, Texas – The former employee of Compass Bank in Laredo Texas accused in a case involving more than $8 million of losses to bank customers has pleaded guilty, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Celina Villarreal, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to launder money pursuant to a written plea agreement this morning.  

In exchange for her guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment and recommend to the sentencing judge that she receive credit for accepting responsibility for her actions. Villarreal also agreed not to engage in future bank employment and to make full restitution to the victims of all offenses alleged in the indictment.

By the terms of her plea agreement, Villarreal admitted she began to take money from the accounts of five bank customers while serving as an international banking officer at Compass Bank in January 2009. She would then transfer the money to another account for the use of herself and others. More than $8 million was taken from the customers’ accounts in a scheme that lasted until December 2009. Villarreal admitted that the money was used to purchase vehicles, personal items and a condominium on South Padre Island as well as to invest in various business ventures. 
 
Villarreal’s employment with the bank was terminated when a bank audit uncovered the losses. The bank then reported the incident to the United States Secret Service.

Villarreal faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and 10 years for conspiracy to launder money. There is no parole in the federal system. In addition, Villarreal may be fined up to $1 million for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Conspiracy to launder money has a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the amount of criminally derived property involved in the scheme. 

Villarreal has been permitted to remain on bond pending her sentencing hearing, which is expected to be set in the near future by U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Calhoun-Lopez and Diana Song.

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