Pharr Woman Convicted of Bank Fraud
McALLEN, Texas – A former bank employee has entered a guilty plea to allegations she stole more than $1 million from customer accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 45, of Pharr, acknowledged she committed two counts of bank fraud and one count of embezzlement that occurred over eight years. Rodriguez admitted to illegally withdrawing money from customers’ accounts and to hiding the unauthorized withdrawls by back-filling the accounts with money from other customers’ accounts and by changing the address on the customer accounts without authorization.
Rodriguez worked at First National Bank in Edinburg. Beginning in at least January 2006, she began taking money from customer accounts without authorization. She continued to do so during the time PlainsCapital Bank took over First National Bank.
A PlainsCapital Bank audit resulted in her firing on Aug. 12, 2014. Following her termination, employees discovered documents at her desk including a 1099 statement belonging to one of the victims. The statement had been altered with whiteout over the address and interest earned sections and new information typed over them. The new address was actually a private mailbox that Rodriguez leased.
Law enforcement executed a search warrant on that private mailbox, at which time they discovered multiple mailings to account holders at her address.
Further investigation revealed a large amount of unexplained money deposited into some of Rodriguez’s accounts which corresponded with the time of the unauthorized withdrawls from the victim accounts. The victim accounts belonged to individuals who interacted with Rodriguez directly when she was employed at the bank. The accounts primarily belonged to elderly individuals and to individuals living out of the country whom were not likely to regularly monitor their accounts. When account holders or their representatives came in to close their statements, Rodriguez moved money from another victim’s account to backfill the account about to be closed.
A forensic audit conducted by an outside accounting firm determined that approximately $1.3 million was taken from six victim accounts over an eight-year time span. As part of her plea, Rodriguez agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution.
U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the plea and sent sentencing for April 11, 2018. At that time, Rodriguez faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine. She was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard is prosecuting the case.