ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO – A former local bank teller accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a customer over several years has pleaded "not guilty" to felony stealing.
Michelle Green, 58, of Ballwin, is charged with stealing $25,000 or more - a class C felony. While working as a teller at the Regions Bank at 1300 Clarkson Clayton Center in Ellisville, police say she befriended a customer and skimmed money from that customer's bank accounts.
"She called to check up on me," said Debbie Montgomery, adding Green frequently sent her friendly text messages. "I just thought she was the best thing, I said, 'This is a great bank teller.'"
Montgomery said she was a Regions Bank customer for several years with several accounts and always worked directly with Green. About a year ago, Montgomery opened a new account to pay vendors for her daughter's wedding.
"One night I was in bed, and I'm looking at (the account), and I'm like, 'This doesn't look right.'"
Montgomery noticed several unauthorized transactions on her account and $3,800 worth of cash withdrawals that she says she did not make.
"The next morning, I went into my bank, and I talked to my bank teller, and she said, 'Honey, don't worry about it. It's a glitch,'" said Montgomery, adding Green said the bank would refund the money to her account.
According to court documents, the money was credited to Montgomery's account. The next time she was at the bank, Montgomery spoke to the branch manager and expressed appreciation to the bank for taking care of the "glitch."
Detective Joey Nickles with the Ellisville Police Department said the branch manager became suspicious after he noticed several deposits were made to Montgomery's account in the same day.
"The deposits were made in person, actually at the bank, which meant that the victim would have physically had to come to the bank on seven or eight different occasions on the same day and make those particular deposits," said Nickles, adding surveillance footage showed Montgomery did not visit the bank on the day the deposits were made.
According to Nickles, the bank manager subsequently asked for a fraud investigation which revealed years of questionable transactions. Nickles said Green's teller ID initiated those transactions.
"As I went through every account for the last eight years, my heart sunk," said Montgomery.
Investigators discovered nearly 1,700 questionable transactions initiated by Green on Montgomery's account. According to Nickles, the amount taken could be "in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Due to a change in Missouri law and statute of limitations, the criminal charge against Green only considers the amount believed to have been taken from January 1, 2017, through August 23, 2018, totaling $52,507.07.
Nickles said most withdrawals were between $200 and $400. There were sometimes multiples withdrawals in a week.
"All the evidence that I was able to uncover revealed that the victim was in what I would describe as being financially stalked," said Nickles.
The forensic investigation showed Green's teller ID viewed Montgomery's accounts daily and monitored the activity for hours each day.
Montgomery said she did not notice the money was missing over the years because she trusted Green and did not think she had a reason to worry.
"Everybody needs to look at their account," she says. "People are people, and you just don't know what's going on, and you can't trust everyone."
Nickles said they believe this is an isolated incident and no other bank customers were impacted.
Green's attorney, Joseph G. McCulloch, issued this statement:
"We dispute the allegation, are disappointed the prosecutor's office took this to the Grand Jury instead of an open hearing and look forward to being exonerated of this charge."
Evelyn Mitchell, Senior Vice President of Regions Bank issued this statement:
"We appreciate the assistance of the Ellisville Police Department in bringing this matter to justice.
When we become aware of potential account fraud, either through our own internal controls or reports from our customers, we conduct our own investigation in cooperation with law enforcement. In cases where fraud or theft is confirmed, we reimburse any funds improperly removed from the customer`s account and terminate the employment of the associate responsible."
Montgomery and Regions Bank reached an "amicable" an undisclosed settlement in this case.