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Palestine woman pleads guilty to bank fraud

CHARLESTON — A Wirt County woman pleaded guilty Friday to bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia said.

Melissa Evans, 49, Palestine, pleaded guilty to depositing stolen insurance checks from an employer into her bank account, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said.

“Aren’t we all taught not to take things that don’t belong to us? Ms. Evans took her employer’s insurance checks like they were her own personal paychecks,” Stuart said.

Evans was a financial coordinator for a dental practice in Parkersburg, Stuart said.

Over the course of four years, Evans stole checks mailed to the dental practice from insurance groups and fraudulently deposited the stolen checks into her bank account, instead of the dental practice’s bank account, he said.

According to the information provided by the United States Department of Justice, the events happened between the years of 2011 and 2018.

In her position, Evans was responsible for accepting payments, posting entries into the accounting system, prepared and conducted deposits on behalf of the office and was in charge of their accounts payable, the information said.

During that time frame, Evans knowingly forged the signature of her employer without authorization and misappropriated checks from several institutions including the Boards of Education from Wood, Jackson and Pleasants counties.

Her employer’s forged signature made it possible to deposit the checks into her personal account with Poca Valley Bank in Spencer, the information said.

Throughout her scheme, Evans fraudulently appropriated more than 300 checks and embezzled more than $120,000, Stuart said.

Evans also forged her boss’ signature on three checks drawn on patients’ personal bank accounts, the information said.

After the checks were deposited into her personal account, Evans used her debit card or wrote checks to access the funds, the information said.

Evans owes the $120,000 in restitution, the information said.

Sentencing is scheduled on Nov. 18. She faces up to 30 years in prison.

The Secret Service and the Parkersburg Police Department conducted the investigation.

Judge Irene Berger presided over the plea hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Robeson is handling the prosecution.

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