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Prosecutors: Valley banker stole about $1.3 million from customer accounts

Investigators believe a woman who worked at PlainsCapital Bank in Edinburg siphoned approximately $1.3 million from customer accounts during the past eight years.

Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 43, of Pharr surrendered to federal investigators on Thursday morning, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas.

Luna worked at PlainsCapital Bank -- formerly First National Bank -- in Edinburg.

"Following her termination, employees discovered documents at her desk including a 1099 statement belonging to one of the victims, according to the allegations. The statement had allegedly been altered with whiteout over the address and interest earned sections and new information typed over them," according to the news release." The new address was actually a private mailbox that Rodriguez leased, according to the charges."

Investigators executed a search warrant on her private mailbox.

"Further investigation revealed a large amount of unexplained money being deposited into some of Rodriguez's accounts, corresponding with the time of the unauthorized withdrawls from the victim accounts, according to the charges," according to the news release. "The victim accounts allegedly belonged to individuals who interacted with Rodriguez directly when she was employed at the bank."

A forensic audit determined approximately $1.3 million had been taken from six accounts during an eight-year period.

PlainsCapital Bank released a statement:

PlainsCapital Bank is aware of the charges against a former PlainsCapital Bank/First National Bank Edinburg employee. On September 13, 2013, PlainsCapital Bank entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to acquire substantially all loans and deposits of Edinburg, TX-based First National Bank. In the months following the transaction, PlainsCapital discovered instances of potential employee theft at the Bank’s Edinburg Cano branch located at 100 West Cano Street, Edinburg, Texas 78539. PlainsCapital launched an internal investigation and placed the employee on administrative leave. The questionable activity spanned a number of years dating back to when the employee was working for First National Bank. At the conclusion of its investigation, PlainsCapital terminated the employee and immediately referred the matter to law enforcement. PlainsCapital Bank has contacted the affected customers and is cooperating fully with the FBI as they investigate this matter and will continue to do so. Given that this is an active federal investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.


News Release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas - A former bank employee has surrendered to federal authorities following allegations she stole more than $1 million from customer accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 43, of Pharr, surrendered this morning and is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan at 10:00 a.m. today.

According to the criminal complaint, filed yesterday and unsealed today, Rodriguez worked at PlainsCapital Bank in Edinburg. Following her termination, employees discovered documents at her desk including a 1099 statement belonging to one of the victims, according to the allegations. The statement had allegedly been altered with whiteout over the address and interest earned sections and new information typed over them. The new address was actually a private mailbox that Rodriguez leased, according to the charges.

The criminal complaint alleges there were multiple accounts that had the address information changed. Those accounts allegedly had a significant number of unauthorized withdrawls.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant on Rodriguez's private mailbox, at which time they discovered multiple mailings to account holders at her private mailbox address.

Further investigation revealed a large amount of unexplained money being deposited into some of Rodriguez's accounts, corresponding with the time of the unauthorized withdrawls from the victim accounts, according to the charges. The victim accounts allegedly belonged to individuals who interacted with Rodriguez directly when she was employed at the bank. The complaint alleges the accounts primarily belonged to elderly individuals and to individuals living out of the country whom were not likely to regularly monitor their accounts. When account holders or their representatives came in to close their statements, Rodriguez would allegedly move money from another victim's account to backfill the account about to be closed.

A forensic audit conducted by an outside accounting firm determined that approximately $1.3 million was taken from six victim accounts over an eight-year time span, according to the charges.

If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard is prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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