Pharr Woman Sent to Prison for Bank Fraud
McALLEN, Texas – A former bank employee has been ordered to prison for her admissions of she stealing more than $1 million from customer accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 45, pleaded guilty Jan. 31, 2018.
Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed Rodriguez a 85-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court highlighted the extent to which Rodriguez went to conceal her crime, including changing addresses on accounts, getting an address of her own to use, falsifying tax paperwork, falsifying a letter from the bank and adding additional instructions to the account to control access of anyone other than Rodriguez. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the number of victims, the fact that some elderly victims did not have repairs made to their house because of the fraud, the fact that the fraud scheme happened over a number of years and that the victims were people who would trust Rodriguez. The court noted Rodriguez purposefully targeted elderly victims with limited access to the bank.
At the time of her plea, Rodriguez 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 withdrawals 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.
Rodriguez was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard is prosecuting the case.