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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 1, 2018

Olean Man Pleads Guilty To Bank Fraud

CONTACT:  Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX #:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Joseph Stevens, 53, of Olean, NY, pleaded guilty, before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford, to bank fraud and tax evasion. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross, who is handling the case, stated that in August 2012, the defendant, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), was hired by a business owner to handle all of the bookkeeping responsibilities for his business. Responsibilities included paying vendors, employee payroll, and personal and business tax return preparation. In order to perform the accounting duties, Stevens was given access to the business’ bank account information for the business owner’s two business accounts at a Five Star Bank branch in Warsaw, NY.

Beginning in early 2016, the defendant began to notify the business owner that the business was not doing well financially. For instance, a $30,000.00 line of credit at Five Star Bank was maxed out without authorization. When questioned about the line of credit, Stevens told the business owner that the business was not generating enough revenue. Also, sometime in 2016, the business owner received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that his 2015 taxes had not been paid. When the business owner questioned the defendant, Stevens again stated that the business was not generating enough revenue.

In September 2016, the business owner realized that monthly statements for the Five Star Bank accounts were no longer being received at the business owner’s office. On March 24, 2017, the business owner went to the bank branch to review the business accounts activity.

Between August 2012 and April 2017, Stevens made approximately $342,700.00 in unauthorized electronic withdrawals from the business owner’s accounts to his personal accounts and forged approximately 39 checks, made payable to himself, in the amount of $87,800.

In addition, the defendant failed to file an income tax return for 2015 result in a loss of $53,296.00 to the IRS and also failed to file an income tax return for 2014 resulting in a tax loss of $29,186.00.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office, and the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Shelly Binkowski of the Boston Division.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 7, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Wolford.

Updated March 1, 2018