Bank teller took $200,000 from Alabama vault and gambled it at casinos, feds say

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A 41-year-old woman accused of embezzling from a string of former employers in Alabama has been sentenced to prison.

Prosecutors said Tiffany Culliver Franklin embezzled $202,000 from a bank where she worked as a vault teller and, after she was fired, became a bookkeeper at a middle school where she is accused of stealing $13,000 — including funds from classroom teachers. Both times the money was reportedly used to gamble at casinos.

A federal judge sentenced Franklin to three years and one month in prison and ordered her to pay $216,416 in restitution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama said in a news release on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Franklin will also be barred from working in the financial services industry after her release.

A jury found Franklin guilty on six counts of embezzlement, bank fraud and wire fraud after a two-day trial in June. Court documents show she plans to appeal the verdict.

Public defenders appointed to represent Franklin did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Friday, Dec. 10.

According to prosecutors and federal court filings, the alleged fraud dates to October 2014, while Franklin was working at a Wells Fargo branch in Montgomery, Alabama. Prosecutors said she started working at the bank in January 2012.

Between October and December 2014, Franklin is accused of using her Wells Fargo user ID to get a debit card in a customer’s name. Prosecutors said the card was “linked to an elderly customer’s account,” which Franklin reportedly used to deposit worthless checks from her own bank account.

Before the checks cleared, the government said, Franklin went to ATMs and withdrew the cash. She succeeded in stealing at least $550 from Wells Fargo as a result, according to an indictment.

Prosecutors said Franklin was later hired as a vault teller at a BB&T branch in Montgomery, where she is accused of embezzling $202,000 over a two-year period.

Franklin was the only employee with access to the vault, court filings state.

The alleged embezzlement came to light when an operations manager stopped by the branch on July 18, 2017. According to court documents, the operations manager and local branch managers counted the cash inside the vault, compared it to Franklin’s balance sheet and discovered $202,000 was missing.

When Franklin arrived for work later that day, prosecutors said she was met by an internal investigator from corporate. They went into a windowed room to talk, and Franklin signed a two-page hand-written confession.

In the first page of the confession, Franklin wrote that the vault somehow came up short and she was trying to replace the money.

“I’m very sorry and I know that wouldn’t change things, but I’m better than that,” she said in the confession. “I will replace all the funds as quickly as possible.”

On the second page, Franklin said she “tried different options” to get the money back — including buying into a business, giving money to a drug dealer and taking it to casinos.

BB&T fired Franklin, and the investigator’s findings were turned over to law enforcement, prosecutors said. In the meantime, Franklin got a job as a bookkeeper at Goodwyn Middle School in Montgomery, Alabama, starting in September 2017.

The government said Franklin diverted a total of $13,216 from the school and tried to cover her tracks with worthless checks. Some of the money was reportedly taken from athletic events and classroom teachers. Franklin was also given a Walmart credit card through the school, which she is accused of using to buy personal items and $850 worth of gift cards.

A grand jury indicted Franklin in February 2020 and returned two superseding indictments in the months that followed, court documents show.

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