Both Head Teller Felisa D. Kazimierczak and Teller Supervisor Janine Shepard worked at the $1.1 billion Greylock Federal Credit Union in Pittsfield, Mass., for 13 years, and were regarded as exemplary employees.
But Kazimierczak, 44, walked out of a Massachusetts courtroom Wednesday and into a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to larceny for embezzling nearly $60,000 from Greylock.
Just five months earlier in the same courtroom, Shepard, 48, pleaded guilty to larceny for stealing $200,000 from Greylock. She was sentenced to three years in prison.
While it may be unusual for two employees from the same credit union to be convicted of fraud in the same year, Massachusetts prosecutors said they don’t think there were any problems with internal controls at Greylock.
“I think it was just very bad luck for the credit union,” said Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Richard M. Locke, who prosecuted Kazimierczak. “One might call it a perfect storm that just happened.”
Greylock FCU President/CEO Marilyn L. Sperling agreed with Locke, pointing out that the fraudulent schemes were the first ones ever in the credit union’s 78-year history.
“We have been dealing with the authorities through these two situations. These things happen more often than people realize,” Sperling said. “The difference is that we prosecute. Other financial institutions choose not to. We really do believe that it is our responsibility to protect our members’ money. And in my mind, this crime was a crime on our members, and it is up to us to prosecute these people and to make sure they are punished for what they did.”
Kazimierczak was convicted of larceny, making false entries into corporate books, filing a false crime report, misleading a police officer and other related charges.
The former credit union head teller, who was in charge of supplying funds to seven ATM machines, told Pittsfield police someone left a note in her car threatening to harm her daughter if she didn’t give them the ATM money.
“The note said we know where your daughter is and we know you have access to all the ATM money,” Locke said.
Kazimierczak also told police she was instructed to take the ATM money, put it into a bag and drop it off at a specific location on March 1.
Locke said Kazimierczak took $152,232 and returned $92,232, telling police she put the rest of the money $58,000—in the money bag and placed it at the drop off location. However, police investigators could not find any evidence the event occurred.
“No one was able to determine whether it was money she took that night or money that she had already taken,” Locke said.
Although Kazimierczak pleaded guilty on the eve of her trial on Nov. 7, she never told police what happened to the money.
“When we searched her house we did find boxes and bags full of used scratch (lottery) tickets, thousands of scratched tickets,” Locke said. “Although she was an exemplary employee and everyone spoke very highly of her, it appears she was financially in debt and that she and her husband enjoyed going to the casinos.”
In the Shepard case, the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office said while Shepard worked as a teller supervisor she stole $200,000 from Jan. 1, 2010 to Feb. 18, 2012. In addition to larceny, she pleaded guilty to making false entries into corporate books.
The credit union uncovered the fraud, fired Shepard and reported it to police. The police investigation revealed that Shepard falsified documents and manipulated and lied to another employee who was responsible for checking her work.
“Banks are in the business of taking some risk,” said Sperling. “We have insurance to cover against these losses and the occasional bad apple that may surface. We shored up some of our internal processes here, no doubt about it. They were strong before. They are even stronger now.”