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Delhi woman pleads guilty to to 14 counts of embezzlement of Ceres bank

FRESNO — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said that Norma Pena, 37, of Delhi, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of a federal grand jury indictment charging her with embezzlement by a bank employee and criminal forfeiture.

According to the indictment, between March 2009 and February 2010, Pena used her position as an assistant branch manager at the Citibank in Ceres to embezzle from the bank.

In entering her guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, Pena admitted that as part of her scheme, she created her own teller cash drawer over which she had control. A teller cash drawer contains the cash received by a specific branch employee or teller from various bank sources such as branch customers, the branch vault, and other branch tellers.

Any amounts of cash placed in a specific cash drawer are tallied by an electronic branch accounting system, which also records the total amount. When Pena would receive cash, instead of placing it in her cash drawer, she would keep some of it for herself. The branch accounting system would nevertheless electronically show that the cash had been placed in her cash drawer, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release.

As a result, her cash drawer contained less cash than the amount shown electronically. To hide the discrepancy, Pena would make electronic transfers in the branch accounting system, purportedly from her cash drawer to the branch automatic-teller machine vault systems, without actually transferring any cash from her cash drawer to the ATM vaults. Pena would then oversee the cash counts of the ATM vaults and other cash counts at the branch, in which she would cover up the amount of cash missing, according to the news release.

The case is the product of an investigation by the FBI and Ceres Police Department after the embezzlement was discovered by Citibank investigators. Assistant United States Attorney Ian Garriques is prosecuting the case, the news release said.

Pena is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1. The maximum statutory penalty for embezzlement by a bank employee is 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of supervised release as to each count. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables, the news release said.