By Margie Wuebker
A local woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $70,000 from Community First Bank & Trust in Celina. The charge stems from a lengthy audit that uncovered improprieties in non-customer accounts.
Melissa L. Keith, 36, 517 N. Mill St., faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine when sentencing takes place later this year in U.S. District Court in Toledo.
Gregory A. White, attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, filed a written accusation, an alternative to indictment as a means of starting a criminal prosecution, on July 23. It charged that Keith "knowingly and willfully" embezzled a sum of $69,624.63 between April 16, 2002, and Sept. 10, 2003.
Keith, who worked in the area of commercial special assets, had 14 years of service with the bank. Her services were terminated Jan. 8, 2004, after improprieties in the bank's internal ledger or business accounts were found during a regularly scheduled audit of the accounts payable department. Auditors moved forward at that point, digging deeper and researching each transaction.
Senior vice president John Hoying told The Daily Standard this morning that Keith approved invoices from companies that did not exist. The bank then paid the invalid invoices with Keith apparently taking the money. "The problem was caught," Hoying said. "We have a system in place to detect such things and it works."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas O. Secor, who is handling the case, expects a sentencing date to be set once a presentence investigation is completed. He said the process generally takes about three months.
The sentence will be determined under mandatory Federal Sentencing Guidelines with the judge taking into account such things as any prior criminal record, the defendant's role in the offense and the unique characteristics of the violation. Defendants rarely receive the maximum, according to Secor.
Keith is represented by Lima attorney William Kluge.