Ex-teller charged in $180G bank theft

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 23, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — A North Haven woman is facing charges that she took about $180,000 in about a year’s time from the Northford Wachovia branch, where she worked as a teller and vault manager, police said Tuesday.

Catherine Sullivan, 37, of Hansen Farm Road in North Haven, turned herself in at police headquarters Tuesday afternoon after detectives obtained a warrant for her arrest on a charge of first-degree larceny, a Class B felony.

Police and bank officials are accusing Sullivan of taking cash from the bank’s vault and trying to cover up the discrepancy by withdrawing $70,000 from an elderly woman’s account.

Sullivan told police she had rewrapped some stacks of bills that were supposed to include all $20 bills so that there were $20 bills on the outside and $1 bills on the inside, and then kept the stacks in the vault. When the money was sent to the Federal Reserve in Boston, officials there reported a discrepancy of $111,720.

According to Detective Sgt. Ken McNamara, Sullivan told him she took a total of $144,000, but bank officials say they are missing $181,720 including the money withdrawn from the woman’s account.

Sullivan could not be reached for comment. She had worked for Wachovia for about 12 years and earned $39,693 a year, becoming the vault manager in October 2006, according to police. McNamara said she had no prior criminal record.

Police said they believed Sullivan bought a car with part of the money.

Andrew Conlin, a fraud investigator for Wachovia, reported the missing money to police in December, according to a police report. A bank official had found that the Northford branch at 1409 Middletown Ave. was not sending in vault inventory forms, even though the official had asked Sullivan to do so. The official scheduled a vault audit for Nov. 7, and discovered a $70,000 cash withdrawal at 3:09 p.m. on Nov. 6.

The bank closes at 3 p.m., McNamara said, and the customer whose account was involved had not signed the debit slip. Conlin told police that it is against Wachovia’s policy to give out large sums of money without approval from the verification unit in New Jersey.

The customer, an 81-year-old woman, also told bank officials that she only banks at Wachovia’s branch in New Haven, not in Northford, according to the report.

After meeting with Sullivan on Nov. 9, officials fired her, police said.

McNamara said Sullivan allegedly withdrew the money from the woman’s account to balance the vault because she knew the audit would reveal a shortfall of funds.

McNamara said it appears Sullivan has spent whatever money she allegedly stole. Sullivan posted $35,000 bail Tuesday afternoon and is next scheduled to appear in Superior Court in New Haven Feb. 5.

Barbara Nate, a corporate spokeswoman for Wachovia, said the bank plans to pursue prosecution to recoup the alleged theft. She added that the bank has already “made whole” the elderly woman’s loss.

Nate said Wachovia’s hiring process includes a criminal background check and fingerprinting of any potential employee.

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