It took a jury less than three hours Friday to conclude that a former Fifth Third Bank loan officer was looking out for herself, not the bank, when she helped secure loans for — and accepted money from — some Monroe County real estate developers.
Paulette Roberts, 56, of Sylvania was found guilty on all 44 counts she faced in U.S. District Court following a two-week trial. The seven-man, five-woman jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, bank bribery, and 41 counts of money laundering for a scheme that federal prosecutors said led to $12 million in losses to the bank.
Roberts, who had taken the witness stand in her defense, showed no emotion as the 44 verdicts were individually read.
Prosecutors alleged that while Roberts was employed as a vice president in the Toledo bank’s commercial real estate department, she falsified loan documents involving four projects in the then-booming area around the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Mich.
In exchange, Roberts was promised $300,000 from clients, and received more than $100,000 shortly after she left the bank’s employment in February, 2007.
Records showed that Roberts received the payments for “consulting” work through a limited liability corporation she formed, and later spent the money on cars, gold coins, and other personal expenses.
Roberts’ attorney, Catherine Killam, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alissa Sterling declined to comment after the verdicts were read. Judge Jeffrey Helmick allowed Roberts to remain free on bond pending sentencing, which he said would be “some months down the road.”
In her closing argument Friday, Ms. Killam told the jury that Roberts “does not deny any of actions for which she is accused. Rather, she denies the requisite mental state,” explaining that Roberts never acted with an intent to defraud the bank.
Ms. Sterling told the jury Roberts’ actions told a different story, particularly when she accepted $100,000 from Monroe developer and builder Giuseppe “Joe” Cangialosi, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for his role in the scheme.
Conspiracy, she said, is defined as a “mutual understanding, either spoken or unspoken, between two or more people to cooperate with each other to commit the crime.”
“Was there an agreement?” Ms. Sterling asked the jury.
“Joe Cangialosi said there was, and he pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.”
Ms. Roberts testified that she had at least two conversations with Cangialosi about the money she was to receive after he and his partners sold land adjacent to the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Mich.
“She and Joe agreed on an amount.
“She expected $300,000,” Ms. Sterling said. “And that agreement occurred while she was still a loan officer at the bank.”
Ms. Killam told the jury Roberts had been candid about her actions, that she may have made some mistakes on loan documents, and perhaps was “a naive and new loan officer dealing with folks who were a little more sophisticated than she was.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kern rejected that idea.
He reminded the jury that Roberts had years of experience in banking, and was an officer of the bank who had received promotions, bonuses, and stellar job-performance reviews.
“She’s not green. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” Mr. Kern said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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