Three Plead Guilty To Fraud Of Nearly $4 Million From Lawrence County Bank

LITTLE ROCK—Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch, of the Little Rock Field Office for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) announced today that Brenda Montgomery, 57, of Walnut Ridge, Peggy Sutton, 61, of Biggers, and Cindy Tate, 57, of Walnut Ridge, have all pleaded guilty to a felony information charging them with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The three admitted to stealing nearly $4 million from First National Bank of Lawrence County, Arkansas.

Montgomery and Tate pleaded guilty on Tuesday and Sutton on Wednesday before United States District Judge Kristine G. Baker, who will sentence them at a later date. Judge Baker conditionally accepted each defendant’s guilty plea subject to receiving the presentence reports for the defendants. Pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States, each defendant is responsible for $1,317,000 in restitution to the bank.

The felony information charged that the three conspired with each other from 2005 through in or about April 2015 to fraudulently obtain approximately $3,953,025 from the First National Bank of Lawrence County, Arkansas. According to the facts read at the hearings, Montgomery, Sutton, and Tate were long-time employees of the bank who, using their positions, acted together to conceal the theft of money from the vault of the bank’s main office in Walnut Ridge.

Tate had advance notice of internal audits and would arrange with Montgomery or Sutton to have cash transferred temporarily to the main vault from other branches of the bank, or from other corresponding banks, so that it would appear to the auditors that the count of cash on hand in the main vault was correct. Once the auditors had completed the count, Tate, Sutton, or Montgomery saw to it that cash which had been temporarily moved to the vault was then returned to the other branches or to the corresponding bank.

In April 2015, officials in management at First National became suspicious of the defendants’ conduct and arranged for a surprise cash count of the vault contents, at which time a shortage became apparent. A forensic audit confirmed that the three defendants had stolen bank funds by materially over representing the amount of cash on hand in the bank by $3,953,025.

The statutory penalties for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, include imprisonment of not more than 30 years, a $1,000,000 fine, five years supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. The defendants have been allowed to remain free on bond pending sentencing.

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