A bank teller in Kentucky who stole more than $32,000 was given a two-year, eight-month federal prison term. Before being sentenced last week in federal court in Lexington, Jamie L. Hightower paid $32,800 in restitution to cover the thefts, according to court documents.
Hightower entered a guilty plea to two counts: one of aggravated identity theft and one of bank fraud.
According to court documents, the crimes happened over a four-month period in 2019 while Hightower was the head teller and vault teller at Community Trust Bank in Mount Sterling.
In a sentencing memo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tashena A. Fannin stated that Hightower’s misbehavior quickly became “increasingly brazen” after she started skimming money shortly after taking over as the head teller at a bank branch.
Hightower used a variety of techniques, including forging a customer’s name on a check to withdraw $6,000 from his account and altering a paper check from a business customer to pocket $4,000 while moving money to cover the theft. He also stole $2,000 from another teller at the bank while pretending to put it in the vault.
On August 15, 2019, Hightower stole $10,000 in cash from Federal Reserve, armored-car shipments, and the vault. The following day, he stole $10,000 from a customer’s account and made up a tale that the customer had approved the withdrawal in order to get the money.
According to the accusation, Hightower covered up the crimes by using numerous teller drawers and making fictitious entries in records.
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Hightower initially lied and blamed clients and employees in an effort to avoid detection.
Hightower had reimbursed the money, which the prosecutor acknowledged and called “a welcome and rare deed.”
The bank, which reimbursed those who had money lost, will receive the compensation.
The thefts, according to Hightower’s defense attorneys, took place during a particularly trying year for her, one that saw her family move, decide to homeschool her two kids after one of them was tormented in school, and get a fatal cancer diagnosis for her mother.
In reality, Jamie’s defense lawyers claimed, “Jamie herself does not know or cannot explain precisely why she committed these acts.” However, it is apparent that Jamie, who had previously been a law-abiding and honorable person, fell in to the combination of external forces she was under at the time.
Hightower was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell on May 9.
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