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Woman pleads guilty to stealing money from Buffalo Rheumatology

Glenda Banko, the former billing manager for the Buffalo Rheumatology medical group, pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $400,000 in company funds in recent years after the state cut off payments for her disabled child.

During a pre-indictment proceeding, Banko, 46, of Glenwillow Drive, Hamburg, pleaded guilty before State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski to one count of second-degree grand larceny for the embezzlements that began in January 2004 and ended with her firing by the Orchard Park business in April.

The judge refused to give Banko a sentencing commitment but allowed her to remain free without bail pending her Sept. 15 sentencing.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III and John C. Doscher, chief of his Special Investigations Bureau, said Banko, who is facing a possible prison term of up to 15 years, will be forced to sign a confession of judgment at her sentencing.

The prosecutors said Banko, who has worked for Buffalo Rheumatology for the past decade, pleaded guilty to the highest charge she would have faced if indicted.

A criminal investigation began after officials of the medical practice -- which treats people suffering from auto-immune ailments -- contacted Sedita in the spring.

Doscher said the embezzlements began after the state government cut off disability payments for Banko's child.

As billing manager for the Orchard Park medical concern, Banko regularly deposited receipts in its corporate bank account. But seven years ago, she began withholding some of that money to make up for the loss of state funds she had been receiving and to cover personal expenses, the prosecutor said.

Banko could not be reached to comment following her mid-morning plea.

Court officials said she faces a sentence ranging anywhere from probation to up to 15 years in prison.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com