John and Julie Worden are trying to put things back together after their lives were turned upside down by Pamela Jean Williams and Terri Dawn Moody Fatka. Williams and Fatka pleaded guilty to embezzling about $1.3 million from the Steamboat Springs branch of Alpine Bank and its account holders.

Photo by John F. Russell

John and Julie Worden are trying to put things back together after their lives were turned upside down by Pamela Jean Williams and Terri Dawn Moody Fatka. Williams and Fatka pleaded guilty to embezzling about $1.3 million from the Steamboat Springs branch of Alpine Bank and its account holders.

Effects of embezzlement still felt as families, bank rebuild

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The fallout from the theft of $1.3 million from Steamboat Springs' branch of Alpine Bank was described during the sentencing of Pamela Jean Williams on March 17 as a "ripple" with "compounding effects" for the victims, the bank and the community.

Williams and Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, who each pleaded guilty to stealing the money during the course of four years using hundreds of separate transactions, were ordered to pay back the entire $1.3 million - plus interest - as restitution. That prospect, according to victims and lawyers, seems unlikely. The women were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

John Worden, who was the first victim, said he was frustrated as he listened to testimony from the two women about a series of five vacations to Las Vegas and the purchase of expensive jewelry.

"Hearing about all these trips to Las Vegas, I kind of got pissed because I haven't been able to take my kids on a spring break trip since '04," he said. "These girls are down in Vegas tearing it up, and I'm here explaining to my kids why we can't go on a spring break trip."

Worden learned about the theft after Williams and Fatka were caught in January, but he said he's been financially drained and frustrated for more than four years.

"Definitely, the bottom line of the household economic situation was significantly impacted," he said.

Worden, a real estate broker and one of six identified victims, said he was shocked when he received his first overdraft notice.

"When all of the sudden, you get an overdraft statement from your bank and you're say-

ing, 'Holy cow, how did that happen, where did that go?'" he said. "The sense of failure, of not knowing : you think, 'Well jeez, what a loser am I.'"

Worden said he was forced to sell a home and a rental property in Steamboat and borrow additional money to cover the theft loss, unsure where the money was going.

When he approached the bank with his concerns, he said he was referred to credit counseling to curtail his spending habits.

"They never did say, 'Let's take a look at your account," he said. "It's disappointing, in hindsight."

Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen said she couldn't comment on Worden's claims because the case is ongoing, and she didn't want to jeopardize the resolution. She also declined to say whether credit counseling was ever recommended for a concerned customer.

However, Allen said that if a concerned customer came in with questions, the bank made available all of the advice-of-charge slips for their accounts for the customers to review. Those are the internal debit slips Williams and Fatka used to take the money. The customers then could determine whether anything looked suspicious, Allen said, such as a forged signature or questionable charge.

"We were more than happy to pull all of the like-advice-of-charge slips and run the entire inquiry," she said. "We would leave it in customers' hands to see if any looked odd or (whether they) had questions about them."

Worden said Williams and Fatka, who often would pick him out of line to help him at their own teller stands, always were friendly.

"(Williams) definitely was friendly and went to lengths to bring me to her window. I felt like a special customer," he said. "When a teller remembers your name and smiles and asks how you're doing and befriends you, the trust follows."

Shame and humiliation

At Williams' sentencing last week, Judge Paul McLimans heard testimony from Worden and Elizabeth Wittemyer, who represented a victim who didn't want to be named publicly because of his embarrassment.

Wittemyer said her client is the owner of a successful construction business in Steamboat. He speaks limited English and suffered a brain injury as a child, making it difficult for him to keep track of numbers, she said.

"He became so ashamed, he lived in fear and shame and stress and humiliation for years," Wittemyer said. "He felt like he was a bad provider and bad father and bad husband."

The unnamed victim would stay up late at night trying to piece together his finances and where the money could have gone but could not figure it out.

Adding to the confusion, Williams said she and Fatka targeted customers who did not bank online. The women then would put holds on the accounts they stole from, leaving the customers without a way to track expenditures or see the forged withdrawals.

Recouping the losses

The deception by Williams and Fatka extended beyond just bank customers, Allen testified.

"They betrayed their customers, their supervisors and their coworkers," she said. To rebuild the trust of their employees and the community, the bank has been working on outreach programs and advertising campaigns.

Allen, who helped open the bank in 1999 and was promoted to bank president in 2007, said all but one of the employees now working at the bank have been there for more than a year.

Allen said the bank's policies and procedures were appropriate at the time of the theft. She also said Fatka and Williams have made no attempts at restitution, and she does not think they will be able to pay back the losses.

Instead, Allen said the bank has made a claim to its private insurance carrier, although she said she does not expect the losses to be covered completely.

The claim was not made to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation because that organization generally covers only customers of failed banks.

The insurance company, in turn, can make claims on Fatka and Williams for restitution.

Allen, on the stand, and the bank's Regional President Glenn Davis, in August 2008, said that all six victims have been repaid in full. Worden said Wednesday that was not the case.

He said Alpine Bank has repaid part of his losses - he declined to say how much - but he has hired Steamboat attorney Ralph Cantafio to help collect the rest.

Cantafio is working with the bank out of court to recoup the losses. He doubts he will be able to directly receive money from Fatka and Williams.

"They probably don't have assets, so there's nothing you can levy and liquidate. So, that's really not an option. Because they're felons, the type of jobs they get tend to be very, very low-paying, and under our statutory legal authority, if you garnish someone's wages, there are certain wages they get to keep no matter what to sustain themselves," he said. "When you go through all the statutory exceptions, there's just not much left."

Allen said she was unable to comment on Worden's claim of outstanding losses.

One other victim, who did not want to be named because he is worried that his connections with the theft could hurt his business, said he was fully repaid.

"The bank's been very stand-up," he said by phone. "They took care of me a long time ago."

Worden said he is upset with himself for not checking his bank accounts more often, a habit he followed regularly as a teenager but neglected in recent years.

"Never in a million years would I have thought they were stealing from me. That never occurred to me that it could even happen," he said.

Comments

Doug Button 5 years, 6 months ago

Glad you got all that cleared up for us allis53ca. You feel better now?

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the_Lizard 5 years, 6 months ago

WOW, talk about blaming the victim, allis. We all know why woman that dress provacatively get raped and they deserve it too. Very sad!

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allis53ca 5 years, 6 months ago

i'm sorry, i think williams and fatka deserve their punishment and more....BUT ! these "victims" of the fraud are more victims of their own ignorance than of two bank tellers....if you have so much money, that A: you can't keep track of it....or B: you don't worry about funds til your broke....you have too much!.....and if you are a business owner with this kind of accountability, maybe you should stick to just being an employee?..i'd be a bit hesitant to do business with a company that can't balance their own checking account ...have any of these "victims" heard of an account balance ledger ?...its those extra pages in the back of your check book.....if on-line banking is too complicated, have your 5th grader explain it to you...its really simple...it even does the math for you...and its free....its hard to have sympathy for those loaded enough not to miss thousands of dollars....nothing personal, i know none of the victims, but maybe they should explain to the kids that there is no spring break because "mom and dad don't balance accounts til accounts bounce"......the criminals in this are criminals, plain and simple...but the victims here made themselves victims by being nonchalant with their own finances............anyone with enough money, not to care til its gone, maybe needs to live in the real world with the rest of us where irresponsibility with our finances has consequences, not pity parties and reimbursement...........

.....these two thieves were'nt even that smart or sneaky, they were bank cashiers for craps sake not accountants or investors...CASHIERS!...they were given the opportunity by poor personal accountability

ALL of you should be too embarrassed and ashamed to let the paper publish your names

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

This kind of thing could never ever happen to allis53ca, nooooo waaaay. Cause she is smarter in the rearview mirror than any body.

Hey allis, maybe reread the part where the bank manager recomended credit counseling rather than properly investigating the claim by the victims. What a tool!!

P.S. Do you have any comments for the Madoff victims?

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WZ 5 years, 6 months ago

Did the Wordens pay Alpine Bank or anyone else for that matter to manage their bank accounts? No. It's the Wordens' ultimate responsibility to manage their own money.

It's not difficult to manage a bank account. And it doesn't take much of a man or woman to defend that.

This article is a slap in the face to the Wordens for illustrating to the public that they were not able to manage their own money, and a bit to Alpine Bank as well for disclosing questionable customer support.

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Kevin Nerney 5 years, 6 months ago

Does anyone out there remember the old saying,"if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything"? It's a saying I was was brought up with. Having been in the so called "lime light" of these blogs I can attest to the fact that it is not a nice place to be. Stating the obvious does nothing to enhance the lives of those affected by the original article. I don't see the benefit of personal slander or what can be gained by projecting a negative ad campaign against a particular business (as in the case of one blogger refusing to buy jewelry from someone just because of his political beliefs.) Perhaps if those out there that can offer assistance in some way shape or form the world would be better off. Instead of berating the victims above (in this case the Wordens) or any number of people in previous articles, just once I would like to see a positive blog such as "contact me, I have expertise in such and such and area and would love to be able to help you through this trying time". Just maybe this town will start to live up to it's mantra of being the "friendliest".

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

The losers with no money come out of the woodwork and blame the victims because they were systematically ripped off by the 2 convicted thiefs. They used inside tools to achieve their crime and it would have been difficult for most people that are unsuspecting to have stopped from losing there money at the hands of these 2 inside robbers. These 2 or 3 finger pointers are not worth the time.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm certain that Alpine Bank paid back all of the losses. "We can't go on vacation"..............That's a farce. These thefts went on for years. Maybe the Worden's should have stopped vacationing and took time to open their bank statements. The thieves are in jail, but ignorance still looms.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 6 months ago

seeuski - It would not have been difficult to avoid the losses. Ever heard of internet banking? That reflects the same balances as the Bank by the minute. How about opening a bank statement? That way you only get ripped off for thirty days, not years.

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

I am sure Dukey has all the facts in this case and feels mighty cosy bashing the law abiding victims to this crime for what he thinks is their not opening a bank statemant. Not much different than blaming a rape victim for dressing provocatively. What insanity. Are you sure that the criminals didn't manipulate the balances on the bank statemants? I don't know the Wordens but this could have happened to many, if not all of us.

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh, And what business is it of yours when and where these folks vacation? Get a life.

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Tubes 5 years, 6 months ago

i guess some people just have a little faith that the bank won't steal from them...and therefore do not watch there coin as closely as those of us who don't have as much and must watch it a little closer.

it's clearly the victims fault for placing trust in the financial institution to not steal from them...what were they thinking!

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

While it appears the victims might have been able to better detect the fraud, the problems at the bank would have made it much harder. The bank's internal controls failed to detect all of these holds on accounts in which statements weren't being sent to the customers. And some of these fraudulent bank drafts were reversed as "mistakes", but these thieving tellers managed to intercept the mistakes and continue their fraud. It was as if the bank accepted they had inept tellers, but never considered that the "mistakes" were actually part of teller theft.

To the extent that the bank is trying to restore it's damaged reputation, they unfortunately have no good excuse as to why they failed to detect the fraud much earlier.

I've worked in computer security and the basic principle is separation in which you do not allow a security breach in one area led to a breach in another area. It is hard to believe that a bank's financial controls ignores that concept. There is no way that the same bank branch should have been in charge of everything related to the account. Fraud would have been stopped at the start if the holds on the account meant someone in the processing center instead of the local bank branch worked to resolve the claimed issues with the account. In this case, the bank manager apparently let the tellers that placed the hold on the account to deal with all of the issues without any supervision.

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

Hey tubes, guess its time to check your account for the few coins that may get stolen. Oh, I guess it would be hard to steel $1.3 million from a poor coinless account holder who watches all three coins all day and who knows exactly when someone is steeling one of the three coins that are accumulating in the coin account. Once enough coin has been accumulated in the coin account maybe time will come to set up a $h!-can account in the back yard for the overflow of coin in the coin account that you can keep an eye on from the back porch while puffin on whatever. Good luck with the new account mon.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 6 months ago

stealing is stealing.....IF, IF'S AND BUT'S WERE CANDY AND NUT'S, WE WOULD ALL HAVE A BETTER CHRISTMAS!....i hope this family gets back what is theirs!

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Tubes 5 years, 6 months ago

hey seeuflail,

i'm actually on your side here as my post was laced heavily with sarcasm--i'm glad you picked up on that.

thanks for coming out pal, you're pretty quick!

and all of your anger...................wow! you might try heading to the back porch and puffin on whatever yourself buddy!

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

Dubes, If you didn't get a chuckle out of that post I recommend the same shrink as Tony Soprano.

But really, I see no way of determining from what you wrote that you were being sarcastic, still can't see it. Sorry PAL!

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thebigdog 5 years, 6 months ago

yah stealing is stealing but don't you think the bank is to blame alittle. you have 16000 dollars walk out of the bank in the begining and no extra measures or audits they just write it off. you have holds put on taken off put on and no red flags!! what was management doing. what was the president doing oh yah she was being rude to the customers. people remember it was not the bank that figured this out it was the customer that went to the police.

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

Certainly the Bank has a share of responsibility.

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JLM 5 years, 6 months ago

Wow!

A bank is simply a repository for funds which charges you for that benefit. Either directly or by loaning out your funds to make interest income and then to pay you some portion of that interest income.

Implicit in the basic contract between a customer and the bank is the assurance that the bank will "safeguard" your funds --- physically and from its own employees.

It is mind boggling to imagine that a person could fault the victims for not being more attentive to their affairs --- hogwash!

The bank is fully liable for the conduct of its employees and should be ashamed and embarassed that its internal controls were so lax that it failed to detect this travesty.

To suggest that the real victims shared some complicity in this theft is absurd.

Hell, the bank should be sending the victims on a vacation for their troubles!

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barbergirl1 5 years, 6 months ago

My heart goes out to the Wordens. All they are guilty of is trusting their home town bank to hold their finances. Many of us grew up trusting people until they prove they can't be trusted. Just goes to show, it's a whole different world now! We also banked with Alpine, still do, but it had us checking our accounts not once but twice when this all came to light. We happen to know the Wordens and know they are both hard-working, intelligent people who came to Steamboat many years ago to raise their family in a "small-town". I guess Steamboat has changed a lot since we left, we miss the "old timers", not the rest. We miss you, John, Jules and family! Good luck to all of you.

Jane

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Duke_bets 5 years, 6 months ago

First of all, Alpine paid back all of the losses some time ago. I'm not saying the victims are to blame, but personal accounting was a major part of the problem. The thieves knew that and that's why those specific customers were chosen. Also, the customers found out when their bank accounts went upside down. No management by the victims of their own accounts was in place. Fairly sad banking skills.

The thieves have been caught and prosecuted and all losses have been returned. And, I'm sure all of the victims have since learned how to keep track of their cash, or actually take the time to keep track track of their cash.

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Wendy Powell 5 years, 6 months ago

Banking online, using a card way more than a checkbook, many places don't even keep the check, you don't get them back in the mail at the end of the month, there is no more ledger, it's a download to a spreadsheet that your accountant processes quarterly or annually, BANKING HAS CHANGED recently and no family has enough money to deal with this.

Sure, you will always notice if there is a charge on an account that wasn't authorized or you didn't execute. But in this case, there were NO errant records, there were NO records of the missing money and there was NO way to know where it went and NO help in trying to find that out.

Businesses need to take responsibility for the losses their employees incur while representing them, let the bank be reimbursed by garnishments.

There is good reason why the others did not come forth publicly, and many of the bloggers here represent that crowd.

I am proud of the Wordens for putting a face to the other side of this story, shocked as I was to see they were the victims. I am sure they have suffered enough, let's give them our community support!

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seeuski 5 years, 6 months ago

So so stubborn there dukey. Leave these people alone already.

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untamedShrewd 5 years, 6 months ago

Why do so many of you side with the crooks? Any way you look at it a spade's a spade. The Wordens and the other families ARE the victims, whether they kept good records or not. What about the vitctim who "speaks limited English and suffered a brain injury as a child, making it difficult for him to keep track of numbers." He was targeted by the so called trustful Fatka and Williams because of his disability...Shame on them! They deserve their time behind bars: I only feel badly for their kids to have such mothers as poor role models.

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