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Bank teller accused of taking US$180K from an 86-year-old who treated her ‘like a daughter’

Bank tellers, traditionally seen as trusted guides for customers in the era of ATMs and online banking, often form close relationships and are entrusted with life savings. However, there are instances where these apparent bonds conceal hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

In Houston, Texas, the Houston Crime Stoppers is currently searching for a 29-year-old Frost Bank employee named Cecilia Hope Brown. She is accused of stealing $180,000 (approximately Php 9.9M) from the savings account of an 86-year-old woman. Court documents show that nearly $140,000 was taken over a five-month period earlier this year. However, it’s not even the worst part of the alleged crime.

As per legal records, Brown established a connection with an elderly woman, a regular visitor to the Frost Bank on Kirby Drive in the Rice Village area. Their relationship grew to a point where the woman considered and treated Brown “like a daughter.”

Brown now faces a second-degree felony charge for aggregated theft from an elderly person. The Houston Police Department’s Financial Crimes Division took over the investigation when the alleged victim questioned the balance of her Frost Bank IRA account, which displayed nearly empty except for $1.50 on July 3.

In a charging document, the elderly woman claimed that she hadn’t fallen victim to recent fraud and had only granted account access to a bank employee named Cecilia, later identified as Cecilia Hope Brown. The woman also stated she never authorized Brown to make withdrawals.

On the other hand, investigators discovered six unauthorized withdrawals, occurring between February 21 and July 3, with an average transaction amount slightly exceeding $23,000.

Furthermore, the victim provided bank-issued withdrawal slips to investigators, revealing discrepancies between the elderly woman’s signature and the presence of Brown’s signature. Brown signed as a notary public on some slips but also as an authorized trustee or custodian on most. Investigators observed that the victim’s signature on the slips did not align with the one used when the account was opened.

After investigators identified Brown as the individual accessing the victim’s account, surveillance footage was scrutinized, revealing her daily withdrawals and leading to a confrontation with a bank supervisor. Initially unaware of any wrongdoing, the supervisor became alerted to the alleged theft when the victim reported her empty account. Upon review, the footage exposed Brown withdrawing money from the vault without releasing it to the victim.

When questioned, Brown asserted that she took the money to the victim’s vehicle each time, accounting for the absence of the older woman on camera. However, this claim lacks video evidence. The charging document also details Brown’s actions, including extracting cash stacks from the vault, hiding them under papers, transporting them to a teller counter, and storing the money beneath it, followed by her departure from the bank with boxes from the counter.

Frost Bank, while refraining from discussing details of the ongoing legal action, clarified that Brown is no longer employed by Frost. The bank reimbursed the victim’s missing funds and is working with law enforcement on the investigation.

HPD said that Brown is not in custody, and there is a warrant for her arrest. She is identified as a white female, 5 feet tall, with brown eyes and brown hair, weighing 180 pounds.

 

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