Branch Specialist Guilty Of ‘Personal Ponzi Scheme’

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MOBILE, Ala. – A former branch specialist at American First CU last week pleaded guilty to siphoning funds between member accounts in what prosecutors labeled a “personal Ponzi scheme.”

Danielle Winkler, 29, pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Prosecutors said she made 164 cash withdrawals from members’ accounts without their authorization or permission. She later would move money from another member’s account to restore the balance of the previous member.

Winkler used some of the money to pay down balances on personal loans, deposited some in accounts she controlled and simply pocketed the rest, according to prosecutors.

As the transactions continued, the amount of money involved grew larger. The credit union finally discovered Winkler’s activity when another employee questioned a $130,000 withdrawal from a member’s account on March 23, 2010. The plea document states that the loss to the credit union, which included that transaction and one other in March, totaled $135,500.


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