Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville credit union manager to plead guilty, pay restitution of nearly $230,000

BROOKSVILLE — When authorities arrested Jennifer H. Hoefler in March, investigators said the Brooksville branch manager at Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union had stolen at least $49,000 from customers to support a prescription drug habit.

It turns out Hoefler siphoned nearly five times that amount from about 19 account holders, according to a plea agreement the 41-year-old Floral City resident signed this month.

Hoefler is scheduled to plead guilty on Sept. 19 in U.S. District Court in Tampa to one count of bank fraud. She faces up to 30 years in prison.

As part of the agreement, Hoefler must pay restitution to the credit union of $229,754.50.

Federal prosecutors have agreed to make a favorable sentencing recommendation to the court if she agrees to the conditions, but just how much prison time Hoefler will get was unclear Monday.

It's also unclear how much money and assets Hoefler has on hand to pay the restitution. Hoefler's attorney, Jeffrey Cario of Brooksville, was unavailable for comment Monday, an assistant said.

From about January 2011 to her arrest on March 19, Hoefler used a variety of methods to steal money from customer accounts, court documents show. She made unauthorized cash withdrawals. She drew up cashier's checks and then forged the names of the account holders to cash them. In a more elaborate scheme, Hoefler wired money between different accounts to make it appear that customers were paying vendors from their business accounts, then withdrew the wired funds herself.

Among the victims were the two customers who reported to credit union officials that money was missing from three accounts they share. Investigators say Hoefler stole $49,125 from those accounts between Sept. 25, 2012, and Feb. 13 in transaction amounts ranging from $100 to $5,000.

Just before her arrest, investigators say, Hoefler took $1,000 more. That day, detectives found $750 in cash in a Suncoast envelope on the front seat of her car and 17 oxycodone pills in her purse. Hoefler used the cash to pay for pills earlier that day, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said.

Hoefler was also charged with possession of a controlled substance. Records show that case is still pending in circuit court.

The arrest and subsequent dismissal came as a shock to Suncoast officials, who described Hoefler as a model employee who started with the company in 1993.

The initial findings prompted an internal investigation that is now complete, and the affected account holders have been reimbursed, said Suncoast's president and chief executive officer, Tom Dorety. All of the affected account holders were based at the Brooksville branch, Dorety said.

"We did a full analysis and have come up with ways of improving the security of the credit union," he said. He declined to provide specifics.

The credit union has liability insurance to cover at least some of the losses, Dorety said. As for receiving restitution from Hoefler, he said: "We'd love to see some of these funds back, but we're not expecting to get a significant amount in the near future."

Suncoast has 53 locations in Florida, mostly along the west coast from Chiefland south to Naples. A second Hernando branch is in Spring Hill.

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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