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Credit union manager jailed

BROOKSVILLE — For two decades, Jennifer Hoefler was viewed as a model employee for the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union.

Starting as teller in 1993, Hoefler worked her way up to manager of the branch in Brooksville, said Tom Dorety, the credit union's chief executive officer.

On Tuesday, the 41-year-old Floral City resident was arrested and charged with organized fraud after investigators determined she stole at least $49,125 from customer accounts over the past year to support a prescription drug habit.

"She's been a fine employee, so this is devastating for us from both a professional and a personal standpoint," Dorety said.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said a Suncoast corporate security officer contacted detectives Tuesday to report that a manager had been stealing from accounts since March 2012.

Among the victims were two customers who reported to credit union officials last week that money was missing from three accounts they share. They produced documents and signed sworn affidavits stating they did not withdraw the money or authorize anyone else to do so.

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. At least two transactions were in the form of Suncoast cashier's checks.

Hoefler admitted taking the money to support a prescription drug habit, the Sheriff's Office said.

Just before her arrest, investigators say, Hoefler took another $1,000. They found $750 in cash in her car.

"Hoefler advised she used the rest of the money to purchase illegal narcotics earlier that day," a Sheriff's Office news release said.

Hoefler was also charged with possession of oxycodone.

She was released Wednesday from the Hernando County Detention Center after posting $55,000 bail.

More fraud charges are expected, detectives said.

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

The two customers who came to credit union officials last week are members of the Brooksville branch, but Hoefler had access to customer information systemwide, Dorety said.

Credit union officials are working to determine the extent of losses other customers might have suffered.

"We'll identify every single individual who may have been harmed by this," Dorety said. "The members who were impacted will be made whole both directly and indirectly."

That means reimbursement for the original amount, plus any interest lost and transaction fees, he said.

The credit union has numerous internal controls to minimize the risk of fraud on the part of employees, Dorety said.

Still, he said, "We'll make sure we learn some lessons from this."

He said the credit union is ultimately responsible, but customers can help by closely monitoring accounts.

That's especially important for customers who carry large balances in accounts that see a lot of activity, he said.

Hoefler earned praise from co-workers, supervisors and customers alike, so the findings that resulted in her arrest and dismissal Tuesday hit the organization hard, Dorety said.

"Our members are the victims here, but so is the credit union," he said. "Our folks really liked her, and there was a level of trust."

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes and @hernandotimes on Twitter.

Credit union manager jailed 03/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:46pm]
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