Former SunTrust teller sentenced to 30 months for embezzling
By Sara Gregory
GREENSBORO ó A former SunTrust Bank teller who pleaded guilty to embezzlement was sentenced to 30 months in prison Friday.
Linwood resident Sherry Taylor Houpt also must pay restitution on the $492,222 she admitted to stealing during the 15 years she worked for Central Carolina Bank and its successor, SunTrust.
Friday, she offered a tearful apology.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I want to apologize to my family and my friends for everything.”
Houpt worked as a bank teller at four Salisbury branches. In March 2007, a bank operations section of SunTrust noticed that a $50,000 incoming cash shipment to the vault at Houpt’s 2070 Statesville Blvd. branch was missing.
Houpt was the vault teller, a job that gave her access to ordering cash shipments for the bank’s operations, Regional Security Coordinator Lane Keziah testified Friday. She also worked as a line clerk.
As vault teller, she reported to the branch manager. Keziah said that “absolutely” her position made it possible to remove the money. “Nobody would go back behind her,” he said.
According to court records, Houpt began by taking only small amounts of money and kept records to make it appear the money was still in the vault. She spent the money at restaurants and shopping with her family.
Houpt made sure she was at work every Wednesday when cash shipments came in.
“She knew as long as she came back every Wednesday … she could hide what she was doing,” Judge N. Carlton Tilley said.
During a bank audit after the money was realized missing, Houpt was interviewed and admitted to stealing $395,000 from the vaults.
“She wanted to be forthright,” said David Freedman, Houpt’s attorney.
Additional unauthorized withdrawals by Houpt from customer accounts were discovered during the investigation, for a total bank loss of $492,222. She was fired April 9, 2007.
“This went on for a long time,” Tilley said. “It hurt an awful lot of people outside your family.”
Tilley did not impose a fine, but Houpt will be required to serve five years on probation after her release.
“The amount of restitution is certainly going to be a handful on its own.”