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11-16-04 Celina bank embezzler will go to federal prison

By Margie Wuebker

  A local woman who embezzled nearly $70,000 from Community First Bank & Trust in Celina will be heading to a federal prison soon to begin the first part of a sentence imposed Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

  Melissa L. Keith, 36, 517 N. Mill St., will spend five months in a federal prison yet to be selected. Upon her release, Judge James Carr imposed five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring followed by three years supervision. No fine was imposed, but Keith must pay $69,623 in restitution.
  The local woman pleaded guilty in early August and faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas O. Secor explained the judge took into account a number of factors, including any prior criminal record, the defendant's role in the offense and the unique characteristics of the violation, but he would not explain any details. Defendants like Keith rarely receive the maximum, he added.
  Keith, who is represented by Lima attorney William Kluge, will be given a date to surrender to federal authorities. She can request assignment to a particular Federal Correctional Institution, but the ultimate decision will be made on the basis of bed availability.
  The closest federal facilities housing female inmates are in New York, Connecticut and Illinois.   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 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. The FBI also conducted an investigation.
  Senior vice president John Hoying told The Daily Standard that Keith approved invoices from companies that did not exist. The bank then paid the invoices with Keith apparently taking the money. The problem was caught early, he added.


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