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Monday, 04 March 2013 10:02

Former Signature Bank employee charged with embezzlement

(BAD AXE) -- A former Signature Bank employee has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $186,000 in restitution to the bank during sentencing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bay City. Officials say Jill Buchholz of Pigeon was charged with one felony count of theft/embezzlement/misapplication by a bank officer after an investigation showed she had embezzled more than $200,000 from the bank between 2009 and 2011. She plead guilty to the charge. Bank executives began investigating the suspected embezzlement in July 2011 and immediately reported it to authorities. An outside consultant helped review the files. Buchholz began cooperating only after the bank's internal control process discovered the fraud and local law enforcement, along with the FBI began investigating. The accounts of approximately 20 bank customers were the subject of fraudulent activity and all customers involved were notified of the issue. No Signature Bank deposit customer incurred any financial loss as a result of  this criminal activity and no loan customers have been required to pay any amounts contrary to their loan agreements or pay any amounts improperly credited as a result of the fraud. Signature Bank President and CEO Robert Thomas says they were disheartened that a former employee abused the trust that customers and coworkers placed in her. He added that with the help of an outside forensic accountant, the bank evaluated their internal processes and procedures to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place. No other bank employees were involved in the fraud. As the investigation continued, the bank met with each affected customer to inform them of the situation. Thomas says the bank's deposits are federally insured and the bank also carries special insurance to protect it against fraud and dishonesty by employees.