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Puyallup woman transferred more than $100,000 from bank and customer accounts for her own use

December 22, 2005

SHERI L. LUCO, 43, of Puyallup, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Bank Fraud. LUCO was a Banking Services Associate/Overseas Manager for Rainier Pacific Bank in Fife, Washington. In that role LUCO was to manage bank accounts for customers while they were temporarily overseas. Customers using the Overseas Account service would grant Power of Attorney to LUCO, in her capacity as Overseas Manager, to pay their bills and handle other financial transactions. Instead, between January, 2003, and August, 2004, LUCO stole more than $100,000 of bank and customer money.

According to the plea agreement, LUCO concealed the thefts in a variety of ways. Part of her job was to manage the bank’s sale of American Express Travelers Cheques. On a number of occasions LUCO transferred funds from the American Express account into her own or a relative’s account. Sometimes she would first transfer the money to a customer’s overseas account before again transferring the amount to her own or a relative’s account. LUCO took roughly $80,000 from the American Express account.

LUCO also took some $14,000 from the accounts of individual customers. LUCO generally took the money by electronic transfer or by cash withdrawal. In the case of one customer, LUCO took money that the customer had placed in a Certificate of Deposit or “CD.”

Finally, LUCO took about $7,000 from internal bank accounts that were set up for operating fees and expenses.

In order to conceal her theft, LUCO made numerous false entries on the bank’s computer system. Additionally, LUCO often used other bank employees’ computers to make illegal transfers. Since the bank’s computer system tracks which computer is used to do a transaction, this made it appear that other employees, rather than LUCO, were doing the illegal transfers.

When Ranier Pacific discovered the fraud, they immediately paid back the customers who had lost money to LUCO.

LUCO was indicted in July, 2005, and she was scheduled to go on trial January 3, 2006.

Bank Fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a one million dollar fine. LUCO will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on March 24, 2006.

The case was investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Dion and Matthew H. Thomas.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office at (206)553-4110.

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