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A crooked banker from the Southern Tier was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution to his former employer.

Richard Fitzgerald, 46, of Machias was sentenced on a felony bank fraud charge by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Fitzgerald was a lending officer and assistant vice president of the Salamanca branch of Cattaraugus County Savings Bank when he implemented his scheme in 2000, 2001 and 2002, federal prosecutor Gretchen Wylegala said.

An investigation by the FBI showed that Fitzgerald made numerous risky loans that went into default, and in some cases, skimmed money from the loans for his own purposes, Wylegala said. Fitzgerald took a plea deal last November.

The bank now has $1.98 million worth of loans in default because of the scheme, and Arcara ordered Fitzgerald to reimburse the bank for that amount.

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