Elder abuse of $1 million theft leads to 5 years in prison, $2.6 million in fines, restitution

Five years in federal prison for a theft of more than $1 million from an elderly couple by a former Texas bank employee – plus forfeiture and restitution of more than $2.6 million – is the sentence handed down by a federal judge last week.

In a case brought by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Office of Inspector General (OIG), as well as the FBI and the San Antonio, Texas, U.S. Attorney’s Office, former Austin Capital One bank employee Paola Gallego, 40, of Round Rock, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin.

Pitman on Sept. 19 ordered Gallego to pay a monetary judgment forfeiture in the amount of $1.2 million; pay $1.4 million in restitution to Capital One Bank (which had reimbursed the victims of the theft for their losses); and be placed on supervised release for a period of four years after completing her prison term.

“Gallego remains on a $1 million bond pending Bureau of Prisons notification as to when and where to report to begin her prison sentence,” the U.S. Attorney said.

In May, Gallego pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and agreed to liquidate and remit certain assets and properties to be applied towards restitution.

According to the U.S. Attorney, Gallego in April 2014 began servicing the Capital One accounts of an elderly Austin couple. The U.S. Attorney said Gallego told one of her victims that if the spouse should die, another family member could take control of the money in their bank account – approximately $4.4 million.

In September 2016, the U.S. Attorney said, the victim took $400,000 and opened up an account at Wells Fargo Bank with Gallego’s assistance. Over the next two weeks, Gallego spent $94,779.13 on personal and family expenditures, including a $50,000 wire transfer to Bancolombia on Sept. 28, 2016, and a $20,586.81 online credit card payment to Chase Bank to an account in the name of her mother. Wells Fargo closed that account on suspicions of elder abuse, the U.S. Attorney said.

The federal prosecutor said Gallego and her victim subsequently opened another joint checking account, this time at J.P. Morgan Chase (Chase Bank), telling a bank employee that she was her victim’s caretaker and a stay-at-home mother, which was false. Gallego then opened up a separate individual bank account at Chase Bank. Between Oct. 14, 2016, and April 20, 2017, Gallego’s victim withdrew $1.2 million from the joint Capital One account via cashier’s checks with the understanding that Gallego would deposit those funds into their joint account at Chase Bank for investment purposes.

Instead, the U.S. Attorney said, Gallego deposited those checks into her own Chase Bank account and used the money for personal expenses, purchasing cars, vacations, home improvements and more.

Former Austin Bank Employee Sentenced to Federal Prison for Stealing over One Million Dollars from Customer