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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

Ex-banker charged with $1M fraud of Fifth Third Bank

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly two years after Fifth Third Bank filed a civil lawsuit against a former employee for theft, Jacob Chudzinski has been criminally charged for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from his clients.

Mr. Chudzinski, 44, of Fremont was charged Wednesday with wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Toledo. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining about $1,097,311, "which should have been maintained and invested on the behalf of his investment clients," according to information filed in federal court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Secor said Mr. Chudzinski is accused of taking money from between five and 15 clients. He said the fraud occurred between January, 1994, and April 25, 2005.

According to the information, Mr. Chudzinski "would divert funds from his investment clients to his own personal business account." His arraignment has not yet been scheduled.

"He had control of these accounts. He just transferred the money into his business account over the 10 years," Mr. Secor said.

The criminal charges evolved after a year-long FBI investigation that started in 2005 when Fifth Third Bank became suspicious of Mr. Chudzinski, who was an investment adviser for the bank at the time. The bank said it conducted an internal investigation after a client of his called the bank asking about the fate of $96,000 entrusted to Mr. Chudzinski.

According to a 2005 civil lawsuit, the bank filed against Mr. Chudzinski in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, Mr. Chudzinski admitted under questioning by bank investiga-tors that since joining Fifth Third's investment advisory arm two years earlier, he had stolen nearly $300,000 belonging to three customers. The lawsuit, which is pending before Judge James Sherck, has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Martin McMannus, a Toledo attorney who represents Mr. Chudzinski on both the civil and criminal cases, declined to comment yesterday.

In its lawsuit, the bank claimed that evidence shows the thefts began before Mr. Chudzinski joined Fifth Third. Prior to joining the bank, Mr. Chudzinski worked from January, 2004, to June, 2003, in Fremont for Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.

The criminal charges filed against Mr. Chudzinski in federal court allege that the theft occurred while he was "employed as a financial advisor, first with Lincoln National, and second with the Fifth Third Bank."

Lynn Eicher, spokesman for Fifth Third, said yesterday that corporate policy prohibits comment on active or pending litigation.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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