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01-23-04: Community First Bank audit nearing end

Could be turned over to local law enforcement


An investigation — possibly involving the FBI — is nearing completion at Community First Bank & Trust Co.
“Progress is being made on the continuing audit and we would hope for finalization within several weeks,” John Hoying, senior vice president, told The Daily Standard late Thursday afternoon.
The audit, which Hoying had confirmed was under way earlier this month, will prove whether the bank and bank employees have been doing things properly or improperly.
In the event the examination uncovers improprieties, bank officials will turn the matter over to the appropriate agency. “That could be local folks or the FBI depending on what situation is involved,” Hoying added.
Hoying again declined to identify the specific department being targeted, pointing out audit activities could lead to other areas, depending on what is found.
However, he reaffirmed earlier comments that no customer accounts are involved. That would include checking, savings, certificates of deposit and loan accounts among others.
Hoying described the audit as a “laborious task” involving the checking of each transaction related to income and expenses in the bank’s general ledger. Auditors have been working backward day-by-day, but Hoying could not comment on how far back the investigation goes.
“We want to bring this to a head and move on, whatever the outcome,” he said.
Rumors continue to circulate regarding an employee being placed on leave pending completion of the audit. Hoying said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on employee issues with no audit results yet in hand.
Two sources inside the bank, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed earlier this month that some sort of investigation was under way.
An employee in the credit control department reportedly had been put on leave and the employee’s office locked, all without any formal explanation from management, the sources said. They also indicated two agents, possibly from the FBI, were granted access to the locked office recently. Bank officials told The Daily Standard on Jan. 9 that no office was sealed at that time.
Hoying again referred questions regarding FBI involvement to the Lima office, where special agent Tom Bailey refuted local rumors that an employee had been led out of the bank in handcuffs. He said agents have made no arrests in connection with bank-related matters in Celina.
In regard to FBI involvement in an investigation at Community First, Bailey said agents neither confirm nor deny the report. He added the agency traditionally releases information to the news media upon the filing of formal charges.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey also declined to release information when asked whether FBI agents had visited his office in late December to report they were looking into possible improprieties at the local bank. He said the sheriff’s office could not comment on another agency’s investigation.


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