Routt County residents Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, left, and Pamela Jean Williams, right, have been accused of stealing more than $900,000 from account holders at Alpine Bank in Steamboat Springs.

Routt County Sheriff's Office

Routt County residents Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, left, and Pamela Jean Williams, right, have been accused of stealing more than $900,000 from account holders at Alpine Bank in Steamboat Springs.

Bank feels 'betrayed'

Officials describe shock, disappointment as theft investigation continues

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— Bank officials expressed shock and disappointment Monday in response to an alleged $1.2 million embezzlement from five bank account holders in Steamboat Springs.

If the arrests last week of Pamela Jean Williams and Terri Dawn Moody Fatka rocked Routt County, they also put officials at Alpine Bank, the pair's former employer, and Bank of the West, their current one, back on their heels.

"I think there's disappointment in being betrayed by colleagues," said Glenn Davis, Alpine Bank's regional president for Eagle and Routt counties.

Williams and Fatka, both 41, were arrested Thursday on suspicion of embezzling $1.2 million from Alpine Bank account holders during the past 2 1/2 years, a theft police say is the largest in recent memory. The two were arrested at the Steamboat branch of Bank of the West, where they began working as tellers in January.

Williams and Fatka were charged with two counts each of theft of more than $20,000, a Class 3 felony, and two counts each of forgery, a Class 5 felony. They were released from Routt County Jail on Thursday night on a $20,000 bond.

"All the staff and all the officers knew them pretty well," said Scott Gordon, who was president of Alpine Bank's Steamboat branch for eight years before leaving in July to lead the Aspen branch. "It's a lot of emotions. You feel disappointment. You feel a range of emotions."

In its first response since last week's arrests, Alpine Bank issued a statement Monday saying the alleged thefts represent uncharted waters for the company.

"In our 35-year history, nothing of quite this nature or magnitude has ever occurred previously," the statement reads, "and while it is our sense that no perfect defense has yet been devised to deter a determined criminal, we nevertheless pledge to take whatever measures necessary to prevent this from occurring again."

Davis said no new information has been uncovered since last week to suggest the total stolen is more than $1.2 million or that more than five customers were affected. He also said the bank has no reason to suspect anyone else was involved, but added the caveat that the bank is "in the midst of an ongoing investigation."

Bank of the West probe

As part of the ongoing investigation, police and bank officials are exploring the possibility that Williams and Fatka also stole money from Bank of the West customers. Bank of the West spokesman John Stafford said the alleged embezzlement shocked his company, as well. The bank is considering the two innocent until proven guilty, Stafford said, but has placed them on unpaid administrative leave while it investigates.

"We have no practical reason to believe any Bank of the West customers were affected by this pair," Stafford said from Bank of the West's San Francisco offices. "But we certainly felt it was prudent and reasonable to place them on leave and investigate."

Stafford described Williams and Fatka as entry-level tellers and customer service representatives who had "extremely limited access to account information." Regardless of what the investigation turns up, Stafford said Bank of the West has the coverage to protect its customers against fraud.

"Customers need to have no fear of any financial loss," Stafford said.

Fiscal impacts

Even if fraud is uncovered at Bank of the West, the relative fiscal impact is sure to be greater for Alpine Bank. California-based Bank of the West has about 700 locations and $56 billion in assets, and it ultimately falls under the umbrella of BNP Paribas, a Europe-based financial giant with offices in 85 countries.

Regional Alpine Bank has just 36 locations and $2.2 billion in assets. Still, officials are stressing that the theft will not adversely affect Alpine Bank as a business. The $1.2 million allegedly stolen by Fatka and Williams would account for 1.6 percent of the $75 million managed by the Steamboat branch, but just 0.05 percent of the bank's total assets.

"It's sizable, but it's not going to have an adverse effect on our ongoing viability by any means," Gordon said.

Davis said the bank will reimburse customers out of its own pocket until insurers such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offer their assistance.

Effect on the community

While officials stressed that any monetary wounds will heal, the same cannot be said for the effects the alleged crime has had on the community. Williams and Fatka are longtime Routt County residents and local high school graduates. They both are married, own homes and have children.

"It's devastated this community," said Vince Arroyo, Williams' ex-husband.

Williams and Arroyo have three children, two in high school and another in college. Arroyo's brother, Tyler Arroyo, is Fatka's ex-husband. They have two children.

"The biggest thing is the kids because things are going to change for them," Vince Arroyo said. "It's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better."

Vince Arroyo described himself as "shell-shocked." He said the children had some trouble in school on Friday before this week's Blues Break, but otherwise praised the encouragement received from the community.

"The support from the community has been tremendous," he said.

Messages left Monday with the Steamboat Springs Police Department and the Routt County Sheriff's Office were not returned. Joe DeAngelo, an investigator with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, said his investigation of the case has not yet begun.

Officials said last week that an investigator from the FDIC has aided local officers at the request of Alpine Bank, but officials at the FDIC's Washington offices would not confirm their presence.

"FDIC does not comment on open and operating institutions," FDIC spokesman David Barr said. "We do not comment or confirm whether or not we are actually in an institution conducting an investigation or even a routine examination."

An ounce of prevention

In addition to investigating the alleged crimes of Williams and Fatka, Gordon and Davis said Alpine Bank will take a hard look at its own practices.

"We'll make some changes to make sure that doesn't happen in the future," Gordon said. "We're certainly hoping to put that chapter behind us. We're going to learn from this experience and move forward."

Davis said the bank has a number of measures already in place, including regular audits of its transactions by both internal and external sources. And while he agreed that additional measures likely will be considered, he added that such practices only go so far.

"No matter what protections you put in place, people who want to get you will find a way," Davis said. "They may also have the wherewithal to cover their tracks."

There are steps individual customers can take to spot or prevent fraud. Although it sounds simplistic, Stafford said checking bank statements and balancing checkbooks regularly will catch most fraud. Davis said customers should pay attention to and read all correspondence from their bank, no matter how tedious or excessive mailings may seem.

Both banks have fraud prevention information posted to their Web sites, www.alpinebank.com and www.bankofthewest.com. Additional information can be obtained from the FDIC at www.fdic.gov, and the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

2007, This article and other statements have been pretty clear on your question. Yes, the bank is covering it.

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 10 months ago

Are these women really that smart that they could mastermind this kind of crime?

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turtledove 6 years, 10 months ago

stbtwannabe - What makes you think it required that much intelligence? They worked there, they had access to accounts, and they no doubt chose ones with account holders who didn't keep track. The amazing thing is that there was no system at the bank to catch it.

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2007 6 years, 10 months ago

The FDIC has limits. It insures up to 100,000 per account holder per account, I believe. Will the bank cover anything that is not covered by FDIC?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 10 months ago

I believe part of the problem is that one of the two was in that system that was supposed to catch it. I believe Pam was Lead Teller for Alpine at the time, but I could be wrong.

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housebound 6 years, 10 months ago

Well somehow it DID get caught, so something is in place. It just took a while.

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wz4now 6 years, 10 months ago

Having retired after many years in commercial banking this is difficult for me to believe. With all the policies and proceedures in place EVERY employee, that includes the president, is subject to multiple systems of checks and balances. These are both internal and external including independent audits, state regulators, federal regulators, FDIC.... For this to have occured over a 2 1/2 year period without detection by the bank it is fair to assume Alpine has a serious flaw in its system, a "leak in the dike". No matter how "determined" the employee the system should be designed to detect such activity. Alpine needs a serious systems check, about $1.2MM worth of checking!

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question 6 years, 10 months ago

wz4now -- what do you suggest? -- should I transfer my banking to another bank? - I agree the there a SERIOUS flaw for this to go unnoticed -- or should I continue to do my banking with Alpine, and assume that the "barn door is closed after the horses escaped"?

It has been suggested that the customers need to review their transactions -- so going back over the past several years is my task -- but think the Alpine should audit EVERY account - and not leave it up to each individual customer! This is way beyond an "oops" by an individual person.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 10 months ago

I can' imagine having to much money in a "bank", except for about 6 months operating expenses, your money should be in a brokerage account, Schwab or A.G. Edwards, or at least a large regional or national bank bond fund, B of A, or Wells Fargo.............

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prayforsnow 6 years, 10 months ago

Only five customers had money taken? I wish I had enough money in my account for that much to be taken and still not get noticed! Hopefully this will make people check their statements and accounts regularly for suspicious activity.

I don't know anything about the investigation, but if they were charged with forgery as well, my guess is they were filling out withdrawal forms under somebody else's name. Everything would balance out at the end of the day still, which would explain why the bank never noticed anything suspicious.

Anybody else have a guess as to how they did it?

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question 6 years, 10 months ago

the question was not regarding having money in a brokerage account, but should the "6 months operating" funds be transferred to another account? --

And what is "minor $'s" to one person, is "major $'s" to another.

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misterkindbuds 6 years, 10 months ago

I hope my man Tyler gets his child support payments back.

Go get her, dog!

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justathought 6 years, 10 months ago

The average person doesn't have enough in their account to NOT notice it missing. Those of us that aren't millionaires usually reconcile our accounts at least monthly. Question, I'm happy for you that you have enough money that you are worried about having to go back over your account because you wouldn't have noticed it missing. Since you have SO much money in Alpine, maybe they will audit your account for you as a courtesy.

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question 6 years, 10 months ago

justathought -- BAD assumption -- you have no idea regarding an individual's situation regarding their banking practices -- this is not a "have/have not $'s" situation

-- and the question still is -- REGARDLESS OF AMOUNT -- is banking @ Alpine a good thing?

Just because I/you reconcile every month -- therefore do an "audit" - that should not take the burden of responsibility from Alpine Bank

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below_me 6 years, 10 months ago

betrayed? the bank feels "betrayed"? a mom and pop operation would feel "betrayed". a bank should feel "embarrassed".

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 10 months ago

I have the same sentiment as Below_me!!
This is bad publicity for Alpine any way you look at it. So what if Steamboat is only a small fraction of their total business. This will still hit them hard. Look at the above comments about customers wondering if they should move their accounts.

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OnTheBusGus 6 years, 10 months ago

I would never bank there, can't stand the commercials! =)

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 10 months ago

If I had to ask myself "if my money should be in that bank, it would not be in that bank, if I had to ask myself should I take off in this weather, I did not take off in that weather, nothing to think about...............

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speakingup 6 years, 10 months ago

One wonders how these women justified their behavior to themselves. Sunday's article stated that Angela justified the embezzled bonuses that she gave to her coworkers and herself by perceiving them as being underpaid. Though we will never really know, I wonder how these two convinced themselves that what they were doing was okay?

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godoggo 6 years, 10 months ago

Yo--speakingup--in agreement with you there--what ever happened to fundamentals of right and wrong. Did Angela Robinson really believe that cashing checks from old employees b/c SHE thought there were underpaid was an okay thing. Please...be examples for your kids. This is unbelievable. The sheer entitlement these three women thought they had is beyond comprehension. Lock em up!

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turtledove 6 years, 10 months ago

"while it is our sense that no perfect defense has yet been devised to deter a determined criminal, we nevertheless pledge to take whatever measures necessary to prevent this from occurring again."

This doesn't exactly fill you with confidence in the bank. It's like, well we'll try, but if someone really wants to do it it'll happen again.

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424now 6 years, 10 months ago

You do not release someone who has stolen 1.2 million on a 20,000 dollar bond! What are thet thinking!

Condoguy, speakingup and godoggo, that would infer common sense is common.

These women may have "appeared" to have an upstanding moral/ethical education and behavior. Unfortuntely, someone who commits this type of crime has to have instuction and reinforcement in the arts of deception and theft.

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tmac62 6 years, 10 months ago

have any of you read the NYT about the guy that had the same name has a trust account and the bank told him it was ok yo spend it he took 2 mill and it took the bank three years to find out ck it out

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godoggo 6 years, 10 months ago

424now--right on. the moral fiber/compass of these women is missing--no matter what good neighbors and supposed upstanding citizens they were..at some point you have to ask yourself how did they get so far gone. Personal responsibility lies within--they are shameless. puts a black eye on the decent working people out there who would give the shirt on their backs to someone who really needed it.

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wyowind 6 years, 10 months ago

You better start keeping all of your money under the mattress... cant trust any of the banks in Routt County! That's the democratic way!!

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colowoodsman 6 years, 10 months ago

I don't belive for one minute that these two women actually walked out of the bank with 1.2 m in cash even if it was over a long period of time. IF they did embezzel some money it is probably in another account at the same bank which is why the bank was so quick to reimburse it's clients even before the DA's investigation started. This could also explain how the missing funds went unnoticed and the low bail bond. All that is needed for an arrest is 'reasonable cause'.

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