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Records: Banker admits stealing $600K from Sevier County employer

Connie Sue Clabo was a vice president for SmartBank in Pigeon Forge.

A Pigeon Forge bank vice president admits she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her employer because she thought she deserved better pay, federal records show.

Connie Sue Clabo has agreed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville to plead guilty to counts of embezzlement from SmartBank and filing false tax records. The theft is alleged to have occurred from 2013 through February 2018.

When authorities interviewed her in April 2019, "defendant admitted that she believed that SmartBank was insufficiently compensating for all of her hard work for the bank and that she deserved more compensation from SmartBank," a plea agreement signed this month states. "According to the defendant, she decided to solve her dissatisfaction with her compensation from her employer by stealing and misapplying SmarkBank’s funds, moneys and credits."

She's to be sentenced in April 2020. She appeared Tuesday in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Poplin.

Clabo has admitted using her position as vice president of loan operations with the bank to cover some 60 cashier's checks totaling $357,187 that were payable to Sevier County Bank or to entities to whom she owed money. 

She also manipulated SmartBank's ledger system to cut her parents' home mortgage by $46,000, leaving them only $398 to pay, and her own mortgage balance of $200,000, records state.

"(Clabo's) fraudulent reduction of her mortgage loan amount caused SmartBank to release the collateral that secured its loan, namely the deed of trust on the defendant's personal residence," the plea agreement states.

Clabo also didn't report the extra money from her thefts to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the government. For example, she said for 2017 she made $127,720 when she actually made much more because of her crimes, according to the government.

Clabo faces a maximum term of 30 years in prison on the theft count and a maximum of three years on the false income tax return count.

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