News and Press Releases

Defendant Used Position at Bank to Write Checks to Himself on Customer Accounts

October 31, 2008

RUBEN SALAZAR, 35, of Puyallup, Washington, was sentenced today to 14 months in prison, five years of supervised release and $103,997 in restitution for Bank Fraud. SALAZAR is the former manager of a Key Bank branch on South Tacoma Way, who used his position to embezzle more than $100,000 from customer accounts. SALAZAR preyed on customers who were elderly or, in one case, deceased. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said, “those who steal from a position of corporate or fiduciary trust have a corrosive effect on institutions, and on the community’s confidence in such institutions.”

Between September 2007, to January 2008, SALAZAR used his position at Key Bank to order checks on certain customer accounts. The checks used one customer’s account number, but SALAZAR selected a different name, someone residing out of state, for the name on the checks. SALAZAR then made out $4,950 in checks on the account for deposit into his own bank account. In a second instance, SALAZAR identified a Key Bank customer with a $400,000 bank balance who intended to donate the money to the University of Washington at the time of her death. SALAZAR ordered checks on this account and put the name of one of the account holder’s neighbors on the checks. SALAZAR researched the neighbor’s name through county property records. SALAZAR wrote nearly $51,000 in checks to himself on the account, depositing the money into his own bank account. In a third instance, when SALAZAR learned that a bank customer had died, he ordered checks on the account and wrote five checks totaling more than $26,000 to himself for deposit into his own bank account. It was the son of the deceased victim who noticed the withdrawals and alerted the bank to the fraud.

According to government filings, SALAZAR used the money to try to get his family out of debt. Prosecutors asked for prison time, noting that SALAZAR had preyed on vulnerable victims.
SALAZAR “specifically targeted elderly or deceased victims, because he thought these individuals would be less likely to closely monitor their account balances – and therefore less likely to discover Defendant’s criminal activity,” Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham wrote in her sentencing memo.

Judge Leighton rejected the defense request for home confinement saying, “this was a serious, serious offense.... The community requires that the defendant serve a term of imprisonment for his crime.”

SALAZAR pleaded guilty on August 11, 2008.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.

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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