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Two Former Banco Popular Employees Plead Guilty to Bank Fraud

Aug. 19, 2008 — Two former St. Thomas Banco Popular employees pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges Tuesday, with one woman admitting she brazenly copied customer's ATM cards, took proceeds from a bank robbery, and tried to cheat a customer out of $1 million with the other woman charged, officials said.
Maria Cruz, 31, pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud, and Marilyn Melendez, 22, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud for scheming to make off with $1 million, said U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins.
Cruz, who had worked for Banco Popular in the past, was re-hired as a customer-service representative in January 2007 at the bank's Altona branch. A year later, Cruz's sister's boyfriend, 24-year-old Jermaine Williams, robbed two female employees of a bag full of cash to restock ATM machines at the Altona branch, making off with some $105,000. Williams gave Cruz $6,000. Both Williams and his juvenile accomplice were caught, pleaded guilty and will serve a maximum of 10 years in prison, plus pay a $250,000 fine and face a minimum of three years supervision after release. Their sentencing is scheduled for October, Jenkins said.
Cruz was not satisfied with accepting money stolen from her bank. In March this year, she betrayed an individual customer. She duplicated an ATM card belonging to a bank customer and withdrew more than $1,000 from the customer's account.
Later, Cruz entered the name of Marilyn Melendez, a co-worker, on a customer's deposit slip, channeling more than $1 million to Melendez, defrauding the customer and the bank.
Melendez, a part-time teller, pleaded guilty to making a false entry in the bank's records by signing her name as a co-depositor on a bank customer's certificate of deposit. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least five years of supervised release after her prison term.
Cruz faces a maximum of 40 years in prison, a $1.25 million fine, and eight years supervised release.
The bank fired both women in April 2008.
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