From fire to prison – Workshop on investigative reporting

This story is co-edited in partnership with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The former president of a small town east Texas bank on Tuesday was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for her role in organizing one of the largest bank fraud cases in the world. Texas history.

Anita Gail Moody, 57, started working at Enloe State Bank as a teenager. The bank is in Delta County, 120 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

After rising through the ranks to the presidency, Moody quietly stole over $ 11 million from his workplace using more than 100 false loans to send money to friends and family, she admitted in court documents last year.

The scheme fell apart when Moody set fire to loan documents on a bank meeting table in Cooper in May 2019, the weekend before Texas regulators conducted a routine review of the books form the bank.

Federal agents descended on Cooper, population 2,180, after the fire. The Texas Department of Banking quickly shut down the bank, which had provided loans to cotton farmers since the Great Depression.

For weeks, Texas regulators and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. settled down and pored over the loan papers between the pews of a church next to the bank building, which quickly reopened under a new owner.

Enloe became the first bank in Texas to fail in five and a half years. It cost the FDIC insurance fund around $ 21 million and left Delta County residents in shock.

Federal prosecutors charged Moody with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and arson in April of last year. After a judge rejected an initial plea deal in October, Moody’s eight-year sentence was handed down this week to Sherman by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office. American.

Anita Gail Moody, Former President of Enloe State Bank. (Cindy Roller / Cooper Review / KETR)

Moody also has to pay more than $ 11 million in restitution, an amount equivalent to the amount she has siphoned off the bank over the years and used to buy a new Jeep, pay off loans to her daughter and fund the business of her boyfriend, among other transactions, according to prosecutors. and court documents.

His deputy, bank vice president Jeannie Swaim, also pleaded guilty to a bank fraud charge and was sentenced in January to two years in prison. Swaim will also have to repay the $ 400,000 she paid her husband over a period of five years, according to court documents.

An examiner reported suspicious loans days before Moody set fire to bank documents in May 2019, said Larry Walker, director of the Dallas office of the Texas Department of Banking.

But for years, the ploy went unnoticed.

“He’s a very, very bright, very intelligent person,” Moody’s Walker said. “She had her fingers on everything in the bank.”

Court document offers rare glimpse into life of bank president

Since the 2019 fire at Enloe State Bank, Moody has remained silent. She closed the door when this reporter visited her home in 2019. Through her lawyer, she declined to comment on a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article published last year.

But in November, after a judge overturned an initial plea deal that allegedly saw Moody serve seven years in prison, Moody used a court record to tell his side of the Enloe saga. Then she asked the judge to deviate from sentencing guidelines that call for a prison term of at least double what Moody had originally agreed to.

The document, filed by Moody’s attorney John Ginn of Sulfur Springs, painted portrait of an isolated woman, who struggled for years with mental health and addiction issues related to his criminal behavior.

From 1977 to 2019, Moody worked at Enloe State Bank. “It’s the only job she’s ever had,” the court record says. The work brought him pleasure.

But it also happened under pressure from “customers and board members who wanted their dividends,” the file said. In a “highly patriarchal and male-dominated environment of East Texas,” Moody sometimes felt that she had “no power to turn away certain clients,” many “like family,” according to her. the court file.

In 2008, against his better judgment, the record indicates, Moody began granting loans to troubled customers in the hope that they “would fix their ship (s).” At the time, Moody “really believed she was doing something to help her community” and “… didn’t know her illegal behavior would get so out of hand,” the file says.

Four years later, Moody began to include himself as a beneficiary of the loans, the record says, although it does not explain why. The president of the bank “knew she was ‘going to jail'” and began to drink “every day to allay her feelings of guilt,” he said.

After starting the May 2019 fire, Moody attempted suicide and spent a week in hospital, according to the document.

She has since started therapy for depression and alcohol abuse, while also cooperating with law enforcement. Moody accepts responsibility. “She feels immense remorse, sadness and dismay at her involvement,” says the file. “She can’t discuss it without tears.”

The dossier makes various arguments in favor of a reduced sentence, including blaming the members of the bank’s board of directors, who “turned a blind eye when the bank’s performance was falsely improved by the conduct. criminal “.

To date, no others have been charged in the bankruptcy.

A seven-year sentence would have been enough to protect the public and inflict “fair punishment” on a woman who has never served a prison sentence, Moody’s lawyers have argued.

In the end, the arguments seem to have had some influence, as Moody’s final eight-year sentence falls well short of the guidelines outlined in the record. The variation was based on his “cooperation,” according to sentencing documents.

Moody is due to surrender on April 9, while the bank’s former vice president Swaim is due to start his prison term by March 5, according to court documents.

Lawyers for each former banking executive did not immediately return calls to their offices from the Star-Telegram on Tuesday afternoon.

Little oversight for years of fraudulent president loans

A year-long review of the Enloe State Bank case by a federal watchdog, made public in a report released last year, blamed the extent of the fraudulent activity on Moody’s unhindered access to banking systems.

At times, Moody has served as a loan officer, bank board member, shareholder, loan committee member, and information technology officer, according to the FDIC’s Office of Inspector General.

Moody used his position to issue loans on behalf of “fictitious borrowers” and unwitting bank customers, depositing some of the proceeds in family members’ bank accounts, according to the FDIC report.

Front and parking lot of the lumber yard
highway. 24 Lumber and Feed in Cooper, Texas, is located less than a mile from the old Enloe State Bank. About $ 568,000 of the bank’s fictitious load proceeds were deposited into a checking account owned by the lumber yard in 2018 and 2019, according to a Federal Court document. (Lucas Smolcic Larson / IRW)

When regulators asked for loan information for regular review in 2018, Moody stalled, missing the deadline for two and a half weeks to turn in the documents, while hiding nearly $ 5 million in fraudulent loan balances, according to the report.

Moody had full control, said Walker, the Texas banking regulator. She could even access the bank’s computer system from her home, he said.

To cover up the fraud, Moody kept bogus loans below $ 150,000, believing that regulators would not review these transactions, according to the FDIC report. She fabricated documentation that made these loans look legitimate, he says.

But eventually, the fraud must have become increasingly difficult to cover up, Walker said.

“If you look at the significant frauds that have happened over the years, people have dealt with them to a point,” he said. “Then they got bigger than they could handle.”

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