April 12, 2013
Bank employee accused of embezzlement readies guilty plea
Greensburg — A former customer service manager for Greensburg’s Fifth Third bank notified authorities of her intent to enter a guilty plea on federal embezzlement charges earlier this week.
Michelle Wagner, 41, was investigated by federal agents who claim she stole more than $300,000 from a pair of senior citizens’ accounts while working as a customer service manager at Fifth Third. In total, investigators believe Wagner pocketed $344,918.08 over the course of 18 months.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Joe Hogsett told the Daily News Friday that Wagner and her attorney have formally notified the federal court system of their intent to enter a guilty plea. That plea, if entered and accepted by the court, will eventually be followed by a sentencing hearing. Hogsett said Wagner could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison time, in addition to “significant fines” and a period of supervision following her release. Wagner has no prior criminal history, he said, and the suspect’s choice to avoid a trial could potentially reduce her sentence. But that’s up to the judge, he said.
One unavoidable outcome of the case will be Wagner’s requirement to repay every cent she is alleged to have stolen.
Hogsett said he could not comment on (and didn’t have access to) a list of items purchased by Wagner using the embezzled funds.
“That information will be revealed at the sentencing,” Hogsett said. The items purchased were described as being “for her (Wagner’s) personal use.”
Hogsett said items bought by Wagner using the victims’ funds would be sold, and the proceeds of those items would be returned to the Fifth Third customers as restitution.
The U.S. attorney complimented the efforts of Federal Investigators as well as Fifth Third’s own investigative team whose assistance Hogsett described as “extraordinarily cooperative and helpful.”
Wagner’s work as a customer service manager gave her complete access to her client’s accounts. Part of her duties, Hogsett said, included assisting the two victims with writing checks, paying monthly bills and other expenses, transferring funds, and maintaining their accounts in general. The multiple unauthorized transactions are alleged to have occurred over a period of time spanning from July 2010 until early December 2011.
Hogsett said his office is determined to send the message that they “take very seriously those who abuse the public trust.”
Wagner’s alleged actions took many by surprise, as Hogsett said neither Fifth Third nor the customer service manager’s clients had reason to believe the suspect was anything less than honest.