Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Former bank official pleads guilty to fraud, money laundering

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A former banker has pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering for approving a series of bank loans to a man whose applications did not include private loans the banker knew about.

Stephen Phillip Casher, 46, pleaded guilty Wednesday after two days of testimony at his trial in Billings, The Billings Gazette reports.

Casher is one of several people tied to former coal executive Larry Price Jr., who testified during Casher’s trial that he and the now-deceased mine CEO stole $20 million from the Signal Peak coal mine near Roundup. Price earlier pleaded guilty to $20 million in thefts, including just $2.3 million from the mine.

Casher admitted defrauding the bank by not disclosing a $900,000 personal loan he helped make to Price in the days before he approved a $3.75 million bank loan to Price to invest in a Billings subdivision.

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Casher also admitted he failed to report a $1.5 million loan he brokered for Price before Price’s business sought a $1.18 million loan from Rocky Mountain Bank to buy five houses and turn them into rental properties. One of the houses belonged to Casher, so he was not involved in the loan approval. Casher also received a $20,000 “thank you” from investors from brokering the private loan, prosecutors said.

Casher faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced on Nov. 5, prosecutors said.

“I think it settled to everyone’s mutual dissatisfaction, or satisfaction, I don’t know which one,” said defense attorney Mark Parker. “And it’s over. And we always have mixed feelings about settlements, but you’ve got to make them and you’ve got to move on.”

During Price’s testimony Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich noted that the government didn’t know about the full extent of Price’s nearly $40 million in thefts until Price told them. Price said prosecutors didn’t know he was giving oxycontin to the mine’s CEO until he told them that, either.

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The court is required to consider “the entirety of criminal conduct related to the conviction,” when Price is sentenced later this summer for wire fraud and money laundering, said Clair Howard, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme.

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