A certified public account from Cattaraugus County could spend up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to bank fraud and tax evasion, according to the U.S. Attorney's office
In August 2012, Joseph Stevens, 53, of Olean was hired by a business owner to handle all of the bookkeeping responsibilities for his business, including paying vendors, employee payroll, as well as personal and business tax return preparation. In that capacity, Stevens had access to the business’ bank account information for two separate business accounts at a Five Star Bank branch in Warsaw, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Beginning in early 2016, Stevens began to notify the business owner that the business was not doing well financially. At that time, a $30,000 line of credit at the bank was maxed out without authorization. When questioned about the line of credit, Stevens told the business owner that the business was not generating enough revenue. Also, sometime in 2016, the business owner received a letter from the IRS informing him that his 2015 taxes had not been paid. When the business owner questioned Stevens, he again claimed the business was not generating enough revenue, prosecutors said.
When the business owner realized that monthly statements for his bank accounts were no longer being received at his office, he went to the Five Star Bank branch on March 24, 2017, to review the business accounts activity.
It was eventually determined that, between August 2012 and April 2017, Stevens made about $342,700 in unauthorized electronic withdrawals from the business owner’s accounts and forged about 39 checks, made that Stevens made payable to himself in the amount of $87,800.
In addition, Stevens failed to file an income tax return for 2015 that resulted in a loss of $53,296 to the IRS and also failed to file for 2014 resulting in another tax loss of $29,186.
Stevens is scheduled to be sentenced June 7.