Ex-banker pleads guilty to $1 million theft

McALLEN — A former bank employee faces up to 30 years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges, according to a news release.

Cynthia Luna Rodriguez, 45, who remains free on a $50,000 bond, pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud, and one count of theft or embezzlement by a bank officer Wednesday, according to court records.

Rodriguez was arrested in connection with the charges in July 2016. She was facing a total of eight counts against her, including six for bank fraud and the theft or embezzlement charge.

Federal agents arrested Rodriguez, a former employee with PlainsCapital Bank in Edinburg, who allegedly stole more than $1 million from customer accounts, court records show.

The Pharr native admitted to federal prosecutors that, over the course of eight years, she withdrew money from customers’ accounts and then hid the unauthorized withdrawals by back-filling them with funds from other customers’ accounts. This was also accomplished by changing the address on the accounts without authorization, according to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Beginning in at least January 2006, Rodriguez began taking money from customer accounts without authorization at First National Bank in Edinburg. She continued to do so during the time PlainsCapital Bank took over First National.

“A PlainsCapital Bank audit resulted in her firing on Aug. 12, 2014,” the release states. “Following her termination, employees discovered documents at her desk, including a 1099 statement belonging to one of the victims. The statement had 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.”

Federal investigators also discovered a large amount of “unexplained money” deposited into some of Rodriguez’s accounts, which authorities said “corresponded” with the time period of Rodriguez’s alleged unauthorized withdrawals from the victims’ accounts,” the release states.

“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,” the release states. “As part of her plea, Rodriguez agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution.”

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who accepted Rodriguez’s guilty plea, scheduled the woman’s sentencing for April 11.