Back in 2007, executives at the $112 million Bear Paw Credit Union in Harve, Mont., began having unusual cash shortages at two ATMs at a local health center and at a convenient store on a Native American reservation.
At first, executives did not suspect an employee was stealing from the ATMs, and thought it might be a mechanical or software problem. So they asked service technicians to inspect the ATMs who found the machines were working properly and advised executives an employee may be stealing.
They were right.
Peggy S. Teel, the former head teller, was charged last month with embezzling $129,409, and is scheduled to appear in state District Court to enter a plea on Aug. 15.
Though court documents show the theft began in 2003, it wasn’t until Feb. 3, 2016, when Gerry Veis, Bear Paw’s executive vice president, walked into the Harve Police Department and reported that an employee stole nearly $130,000 from the credit union’s ATMs, teller cash drawers, a lobby coin vault and the credit union vault, according to court documents.
Although Veis told police investigators that the ATM theft surfaced in 2007 and went on to 2015, court documents show cash shortages from teller drawers went back to 2003. Moreover, cash shortages from the credit union’s vault were initially detected in 2004, according to court documents. These thefts also kept occurring through 2015.
Veis was unavailable for comment Monday. Bear Paw President/CEO Albert J. Vukasin Jr. did not return a CU Times phone call seeking comments Monday.
New policies and procedures finally thwarted the ATM theft. However, a new policy to address teller cash shortages didn’t work, according to court documents.
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Veis told police investigators that when cash is being handled, all tellers and management generally have another employee present with them. However, after he reviewed branch operations, Veis learned that Teel opened the credit union every morning and was typically alone because another employee who was supposed to be there as well often reported late to work.
Even when this employee arrived to work on time, she would go downstairs to her office leaving Teel alone with full access to the teller cash drawers and vault.
Other tellers told police investigators they noticed their cash drawers were short in the morning after having balanced them the prior evening. They also reported cash was missing from the vault.
When the tellers began counting the cash in their drawers in the morning, at noon and at the end of the day, Teel took issue with it and told them “they had trust issues,” according to police investigators.
When police confronted Teel about the theft, she initially denied it and left the police station, but she later returned and admitted to the embezzlement.
Teel said she could not remember when she began stealing from the credit union or why.
“Teel stated she did not need the money,” police investigators wrote in court documents. “Teel stated she does not know why she took it, she just did.”
She told police that she used the money to buy things for her kids and grandkids.
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