Region 8 women plead guilty to bank fraud of nearly $4 million

Region 8 women plead guilty to bank fraud of nearly $4 million

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Three people pleaded guilty this week to fraud of almost $4 million from a Lawrence County bank.

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, made that announcement Wednesday.

Brenda Montgomery, 57, of Walnut Ridge; Peggy Sutton, 61, of Biggers; and Cindy Tate, 57, of Walnut Ridge all pleaded guilty to a felony charging them with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The three woman admitted to stealing $3.9 million from First National Bank of Lawrence County.

Montgomery and Tate pleaded guilty on Tuesday and Sutton on Wednesday before United States District Judge Kristine G. Baker.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

Judge Baker conditionally accepted each defendant's guilty plea subject to receiving the presentence reports for the defendants.

Each woman is now responsible for $1,317,000 in restitution to the bank.

According to the press release, the three conspired with each other from 2005 to about April 2015 to fraudulently get approximately $3,953,025 from the bank.

According to the facts read at the hearings, the women were long-time employees at the bank.

They used their positions and worked together to hide the theft of money from the vault of the bank's main office in Walnut Ridge.

The release states that Tate would get 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 amount of cash in the main vault was correct.

Once the auditors had completed their work, Tate, Sutton, or Montgomery would make sure the cash which had been temporarily moved to the vault was then returned to the other branches or to the corresponding bank.

In April 2015, bank officials became suspicious of the women's behavior and arranged for a surprise cash count of the vault.

They found a shortage of cash.

A forensic audit confirmed that the three women had stolen the money.

The women now face a prison sentence of up to 30 years, a $1,000,000 fine, 5 years supervised release and a $100 special assessment for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The women were allowed to remain free on bond pending their sentencing.

Region 8 News will have more information as details emerge. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute updates.

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