November 18, 2022
Fraud Friday – Community Bank Loan Officer Pleads Guilty in $1.2 Million Misapplication Scheme
“Banks are institutions that people trust with their life savings, and Fowler tarnished that trust by violating his position and greedily misusing customers money,” says Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Fortunately, an observant customer noticed missing funds and notified the bank, saving further loss to the bank and other customers. Thanks to our partnership with the Perry Police Department, Fowler will pay significantly for his crimes.”
Mitchell Fowler, a loan officer at SunMark Community Bank in Georgia, handled most of the bank’s construction loans, allowing him to transfer funds between customer accounts. Starting around November 2019, he began taking money from customers’ accounts without authorization and used the funds to pay on and fund loans for other customers. These unauthorized withdrawals ranged from $1,250 to $100,000 for each transaction.
In early 2021, the bank was made aware of the discrepancies after a customer called regarding $400,000 missing from their account. The bank found that Fowler electronically transferred the money into another customer’s account throughout the week. They also found that he had moved money out of other accounts, and the bank calculated losses of $1,129,000. SunMark recouped most of this money due to their prevention and mitigation efforts, but Fowler repaid the more than $273,000 that the bank could not recoup.
He pleaded guilty to one count of misapplication by a bank employee and one count of embezzlement by a bank employee and now faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2023.
“Although all of the embezzled funds were recovered, it does not reduce the fact that this former bank employee was playing Russian roulette with other people’s money, putting their hard-earned savings in jeopardy and a community bank at risk,” says U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Fraud of any kind is a serious crime that our office will not ignore. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold these corporate fraudsters accountable.”
DOJ Press Release