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Valley bank manager admits stealing money

A former Spokane Valley bank manager pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling more than $92,000 from the Banner Bank branch she oversaw by pilfering cash from the till and writing phony checks.

Christine L. Johnston, 44, will spend 15 months in prison if a federal judge accepts the plea deal inked Tuesday. She was hired by the bank in November 2011 to head the Sprague Avenue and Mullan Road branch in Spokane Valley, according to newspaper records. In April 2012, she began using her position to pocket cash from the bank, eventually embezzling $92,416.87, according to court documents.

Johnston took money from a teller drawer, wrote cashier’s checks to cover phony penalty reimbursements on several accounts and targeted “elderly individuals” for a scam where she would forge debits and checks in the account-holder’s name. Nine people lost roughly $85,000 through these practices, and the bank lost more than $5,000 in cash, according to allegations from investigators.

A supervisor approached Johnston in September 2013 after an audit of the teller drawer revealed cash was missing. Johnston admitted to skimming cash at the time, according to court documents. A call to Banner Bank to determine Johnston’s employment status was not returned Tuesday.

Johnston, who remains out of custody pending an April sentencing date, admitted her guilt to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice on Tuesday.

“I took money that wasn’t mine,” Johnston said. She added that she took steps to hide her schemes by forging names and other documents to support the theft.

Her attorney, Christian Phelps, declined additional comment after the hearing.


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