A former bank officer at Citizens National Bank in Brownwood who admitted to embezzling just under $1.86 million is serving a 51-month federal sentence, court documents from U.S. District Court in San Angelo show.
Dawn Bennett, 44, of Bangs, admitted to gambling with embezzled funds at Oklahoma casinos and was ordered to pay $1,859,915 in restitution, court documents state.
Bennett was sentenced on Oct. 4 by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman. Bennett pleaded guilty on May 30 to engaging in a monetary transaction with property derived from a specified unlawful activity, court documents state.
The guilty plea stemmed from Bennett’s visit on July 12, 2018 to the WinStar Casino, an Indian gaming operation, where she inserted $58,185 in slot machines, court documents state.
Bennett “admits and agrees that each bet at the WinStar Casino” on that date was made with funds she embezzled from Citizens National Bank and concealed through false entries in the books, court documents state.
Bennett — who was hired as a Bangs High School junior and worked at the bank for more than 20 years — admitted embezzling the larger amount of nearly $1.86 million from the bank’s drive-through vault from 2015 though 2018, court documents state. Bennett admitted to making false statements in the bank’s books and records to conceal the embezzlement.
Bennett was arrested in September 2018 on a state theft charge and booked into the Brown County Jail. She was freed on $150,000 bond.
According to U.S. District Court documents:
Bennett worked at Citizens National bank from May 1998 through August 2018. Beginning in March 2002 and continuing through t July 2017, Bennett was the supervisor for the bank’s drive-through. Bennett maintained daily control over the amount of cash in the drive-through vault.
Bennett was promoted to head teller in July 2017.
Bennett traveled to Oklahoma with the embezzled funds and gambled at casinos, placing more than $3 million in bets at the WinStar from May 2015 through July 2018, court documents state. Bennett’s annual salary for that period increased from $37,200 to $43,500.
As required by federal regulations, WinStar filed a currency transaction report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
After Bennett’s September 2018 arrest, bank president and CEO John Guest and then-Executive Vice President Keith Clark said the loss to the bank was covered by the bank’s insurer and no depositors lost money.
Bennett’s last day of work was Aug. 6, 2018, when she left on what was supposed to have been a weeklong vacation, Clark said then. Bennett never returned from the vacation and no one at the bank had seen her since, he said.
In the years 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, Bennett spent just over $3 million at the casino and won jackpots totaling $1.3 million, Shea’s affidavit states.
Bennett told Texas Ranger Jason Shea she “liked going to the WinStar Casino” in Thackerville, Okla, Shea wrote in a probable cause affidavit. Bennett told Shea she would take money from the bank to the casino, the affidavit states.
Brownwood Police Lt. James Kidd contacted Shea on Aug. 14, 2018 about the theft. On Aug. 20, Shea met with Brownwood police, Clark and other bank representatives.
Clark said bank officials became suspicious that money was missing based on a July 12 incident, when Bennett was supposed to have put a large amount of money into the vault. The money never made it to the vault and there was no paperwork showing the money was placed in the vault.
Shea interviewed Bennett in his office on Sept. 4 and Bennett said she never took money from the bank. Bennett told Shea “there was no way millions of dollars were missing from the bank,” Shea’s affidavit states.
Shea told Bennett how the money was determined to be missing and how the money was tracked to her.
Bennett then made statements indicating she had taken money from the bank beginning in 2011.