Between 2007 and 2010, Diane Elizabeth Niehaus, 40, of Beavercreek, Ohio, was the Branch Manager of the Union Savings Bank ("USB") branch in Centerville, Ohio. That sound like a nice job. Steady employment. Probably decent hours and all. Apparently, for Niehaus, however, it just wasn't enough.
Between 2008 and 2010, Niehaus stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly customers she had targeted. Worse, Niehaus knew that many of her victims suffered from cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Yeah, I know, there's low, and then there's lowlife, and then there's whatever is further down into the bowels of disgusting.
One Victimized Couple
By 2008 a husband and wife with accounts at the USB Centerville branch and on a $600 monthly budget were in ill health, with one under medication for conditions including congestive heart failure and diabetes, and the other spouse suffering from dementia. On August 25, 2010, Niehaus had the couple sign durable powers of attorney, which were notarized by a notary who subsequently admitted that the couple were not present during the notarizations of the powers. Not present is quite an understatement: at the time of the attestations, one couple was hospitalized in an intensive care unit.
In two civil lawsuits filed against Niehaus on July 19, 2011 and March 29, 2012, it was alleged, among other things, that she had misused a power of attorney to withdraw some $490,653.95 from one of the customer's USB account and she deposited the proceeds into an account in the couple's name and Niehaus's at Benchmark Bank, Gahanna, Ohio. Niehaus then transferred the $406,748.19 from the Benchmark account to a title agency for the purpose of purchasing a home valued at $410,000 in the name of herself and her husband.
The lawsuit settled on May 18, 2012, when Niehaus and her husband transferred $365,934 to one of the victim's attorney along with the transfer of the title to the house to USB. Moreover, USB agreed to pay the victims $834,066.
Now You CD It, Now You Don't
In another example, On June 18, 2008, Niehaus withdrew without the customer's permission, $2,583.89 from a certificate of deposit account in the customer's name. Niehaus made the proceeds payable to herself via check, which she then cashed one hour after the withdrawal without an endorsement.
Upon discovery of this withdrawal by the customer, Niehaus embezzled funds from other customer accounts in order to make reimbursement. Niehaus purportedly told the victimized customer that another bank employee had committed the CD theft, and after concocting a detailed story as to how and why this other employee purportedly stole funds from customer, Niehaus stated that USB was filing charges against that employee.
Wheels of Justice
In furtherance of her embezzlement, Niehaus created fictitious gift letters and fraudulent powers of attorney. She attempted to conceal her thefts through the implementation of complex and layered financial transactions, which, at times, employed the use of cashiers' checks or official checks. Compounding her crime, she also failed to report the fraudulently obtained income on her federal income tax returns.
Niehaus resigned from USB on September 20, 2011.
On September 19. 2013, Niehaus pled guilty in federal court in the Southern District of Ohio to one count each of embezzlement, money laundering, and filing a false income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. She faced up to 30 years in prison on the embezzlement count; up to 20 years on the money laundering; and up to 3 years on the filing of a false taz return. Additionally, she faced to possibility of fines and costs.
On May 8, 2014, Niehaus was sentenced to 6 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution to her victims and the IRS.
Bill Singer's Comment
For those of you looking after elderly parents or taking care of friends and family with disabilities, invest a few minutes to read the Complaint and the Information so as to gain some understanding of the mechanics involved in these frauds.
READ the Complaint
READ the Information