Ex-BofA vice president, husband charged in embezzlement scam

NEW YORK – A former Bank of America Corp. senior vice president and her husband were charged with embezzling more than $2.7 million by making charitable donations on behalf of the lender before using intimidation and threats to get much of the money back for their own use.

Palestine “Pam” Ace, 45, of the bank’s global wealth & investment management division, and her husband Jonathan Ace, 46, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud allegedly targeting non-profit groups that serve youth in Boston and Atlanta, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said Monday in a statement.

Prosecutors claim Pam Ace from 2010 to 2015 approved 75 donations to basketball and educational programs and other organizations providing support to children with HIV/AIDS before insisting that about half of the money “be returned in order to ensure that Bank of America would continue to fund the organization,” according to the statement.

Ace’s husband then allegedly threatened the recipients with “public humiliation” to extract the return of as much of the money as possible.

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Charlotte-based Bank of America uncovered the alleged scheme through an internal investigation that initially focused on the bank account of Pam Ace’s mother, according to an affidavit filed in court by FBI agent Sheila Magoon. The lender appears to have been tipped off by large structured payments into the account, according to the filing.

Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America, declined to comment on the charges.

David Duncan, Pam Ace’s lawyer, said in a phone call Monday that his client has pleaded not guilty and declined to comment further. Her husband’s lawyer, Matthew Thompson, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Hiding Method

Pam Ace was able to conceal the fraud from the bank by instructing other employees to exclude the fraudulent transfers from their regular accounting reports to her supervisor, according to the indictment. Some of the non-profit groups’ leaders were involved in the grand jury case that led to the indictments, according to court documents.

A third person, Brianna Alexis Forde, 35, was also charged in the alleged scheme, court records show. She’s accused of approaching the charities, falsifying documents and facilitating the transfer of funds to a personal account to be distributed later to the Aces. It was Forde’s deposits into the account of Ace’s mother that tipped off the bank, according to court records.

Forde’s lawyer, Eduardo Masferrer, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The Aces, of Rockland, Massachusetts, are accused of using a portion of the stolen money to support their lifestyle and cover personal expenses, including lavish birthday parties and the purchase of a $17,000 Kawasaki motorcycle, prosecutors said in the statement.

They face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the wire fraud and bank fraud charges.

Erik Larson is a reporter for Bloomberg News.