Once in a while an embezzlement breaks through the layers of sophisticated technology and human examination in financial institutions and serves as a jolting reminder that fraud-prevention systems are not yet perfect, as the recent case involving Bank of America in Providence illustrates.
Elvy Gomez, 39, a former employee of Bank of America in Providence, last month pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $95,000 from stolen federal tax checks, according to a June 21 press release from U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha.
Gomez admitted to the court he used his position at the bank to access a dormant checking account, where he deposited stolen treasury checks and then withdraw the funds.
“Loss-prevention or fraud-prevention systems are the backbone of the banking industry,” said Jim Zardecki, senior vice president for facilities and security for Wyomissing, Pa. - based Customers Bank, which has offices in Providence and Boston.
“I’ve been involved in implementing systems that have literally prevented millions of dollars in losses. The systems raised red flags and stopped the funds from going out the door.
“But no bank could ever say it’s 100 percent protected because of the rapidly changing, sophisticated technology. It’s both a curse and a cure.
“As quickly as we’re putting systems in, there are people out there trying to be more sophisticated about trying to beat those systems,” said Zardecki, who previously set up loss-prevention systems for PNC Bank, worked with Sovereign Bank, holds a private-investigator license and was the chief county detective for Luzerne County in Pennsylvania.
“There are people out there who make a living trying to stay a step ahead of the technology banks are putting in place for fraud prevention,” said Zardecki.
An investigation by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation found that the dormant account in the recent Bank of America case belonged to a person who had moved to the Dominican Republic in 2009. Gomez also got an ATM card in that person’s name. Between April 2012 and August 2012, Gomez deposited 14 stolen checks totaling $95,559 into the bank account and withdrew money.
Gomez pleaded guilty to one count each of theft of government property, forging an endorsement on treasury checks and money launderings. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 on each charge. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6. “We look at this as part of our identity-theft push,” said Jessica Crocker, a spokesperson for IRS-Criminal Investigation. “There’s lot of interest in this case for us because he used the identity of another person.” A spokesman for Bank of America didn’t immediately respond to questions seeking comment last week.