Former Bank Employee Indicted And Arrested For Bank Fraud
Husband arrested as accessory after the fact
SAN JUAN, P.R. - On January 17, 2017, a Federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging María Cristina Cotto-Ortiz with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez. The FBI is in charge of the investigation.
The indictment charges Cotto-Ortiz with: five counts of theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by bank officer or employee; 13 counts of bank fraud; 12 counts of making false entry in a book, report, or statement of a federally insured bank; two counts of aggravated identity theft; and one count for exceeding authorized access of a protected computer. ‘Her husband Natanael Pacheco Martínez, is charged with one count of accessory after the fact, that is, while knowing that an offense against the United States was being committed he assisted Cotto-Ortiz in order to hinder and prevent her apprehension, trial and punishment.
According to the indictment, Cotto-Ortiz, who was the second in command at the Ceiba branch of Oriental Bank, embezzled from her employer, and also stole from an elderly couple that banked at Oriental Bank. The total theft by Cotto-Ortiz is estimated to be more than $768,800.
In 2006, according to the indictment, Cotto-Ortiz approached the victims and asserted that she had been authorized by Oriental Bank to offer high rate of interest to two customers. The victims, who knew Cotto-Ortiz from the bank and trusted her, opened a checking and savings account, initially transferring $160,000, and based on Cotto-Ortiz’s promises of increasing interest rates, deposited over $400,000 over a 5-year period of time, which sum represented their life’s savings.
The defendant, on numerous occasions accepted deposits from the victims but did not deposit the funds with Oriental Bank or record their receipt in Oriental Bank’s computer system. On other occasions, Cotto-Ortiz withdrew money from the victim’s accounts without their permission or knowledge.
Also, during the relevant time periods, Cotto-Ortiz, while employed at the bank, took money from the bank’s vault/working fund without authorization and against bank policy, making false entries in the bank’s general ledger to avoid detection of her theft.
In other efforts to conceal her criminal activity, and after she had been terminated from her job in February 2012, Cotto-Ortiz and her husband Natanael Pacheco-Martínez met with the victims and gave them a $500 check as a lulling payment in order to delay the detection of the scheme.
“The egregious behavior of those who exploit our banking system or its clients for personal and criminal gain will not be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “We are particularly concerned when former bank officials, who have held positions of trust within their institutions, are alleged to have been involved in criminal activity. We will continue to aggressively pursue bank officials and others who victimize financial institutions and their trusting clients.”
If convicted, Cotto-Ortiz could face a maximum penalty of 30 years of imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000 for each bank fraud, misappropriation and false entry charge, a maximum penalty of up to 5 years of imprisonment and a fine for the access of a protected computer without or in excess of authorization charge, and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for the aggravated identity theft charges. For accessory after the fact, Pacheco-Martínez is facing up to half the statutory maximum penalty of Cotto-Ortiz. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The prosecution of this case is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Z. Jorgensen of the Financial Fraud and Corruption Unit.