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Feds: Woman stole $1.9 million over 15 years | News

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Feds: Woman stole $1.9 million over 15 years
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NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WZZM) -- Over the course of 15 years, Kathryn Sue Simmerman arrived at Shoreline Federal Credit Union before her co-workers, entered the vault and stuffed her purse with bundles of cash.

It happened 433 times during her employment at the Norton Shores credit union, where she was promoted to manager in 2006.

Her take? More than $1.9 million.

Despite an otherwise crime-free past, federal prosecutors want the 55-year-old Muskegon woman to serve at least 7-and-a-half years in prison for bringing the one-branch credit union to the brink of insolvency.

The mother of two grown sons, "Callously and without compunction stole from her employer by removing cash from the vault 433 separate times,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Stiffler wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday in Grand Rapids federal court.

Last year's take was $319,000, court records show. Her 2015 take was $23,000 before auditors on Feb. 20 reported the embezzlement to Norton Shores police. Simmerman was fired from the credit union a week later.

Court records do not reveal what she did with the money, but Simmerman's attorney says the stealing began when her husband was laid off from work. Simmerman, who joined the credit union in 1986, initially "intended to put the money back,'' defense attorney Gary Springstead wrote in a sentencing memorandum asking for leniency when his client is sentenced next week.

"Unfortunately, Ms. Simmerman's day of reckoning came 17 years too late, after she had already stolen $1.9 million from the credit union,'' Springstead wrote. "She feels shame. She feels guilt. She knows she betrayed her friends/co-workers at the credit union, her husband and family and her friends with deceit.''

Springstead is seeking a shorter sentence because Simmerman did not use or abuse a position of trust to commit the crime. Her method "was astonishingly simple'' and the vault was "nothing more than a filing cabinet with a lockable drawer,'' he wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

She gave employees at least $500 each week, typically $50 and $100 bills, and asked them to deposit the money into accounts belonging to her family. She used this tact because credit union policy prohibited employees from making deposits into their own accounts.

Simmerman and her husband, an hourly factory worker, each earned about $40,000 a year. Her two sons also worked hourly jobs. Yet over the 15-year span, more than $875,000 in unexplained cash deposits were made to Shoreline accounts belonging to Simmerman and her family.

Simmerman pleaded guilty in August to embezzlement from a credit union, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In exchange for her plea, federal prosecutors agreed not to file charges against her husband and sons. Sentencing guidelines for Simmerman recommend a term of between 6 ½ and 8 years.

Stiffler, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, said the scope and complexity of the embezzlement justifies a longer term.

Her criminal behavior "substantially jeopardized the safety and soundness'' of Shoreline, causing the credit union's net worth ratio to drop below 2 percent. Simmerman cooked the books to reflect a net worth ratio of 12-and-a-half percent, the government said in its sentencing memorandum.

Police found three cash straps containing several thousand dollars in her home; she initially said the money came from her daughter-in-law's horse business and perhaps her son's drug dealing, according to the federal sentencing memorandum.

The amount pilfered represents 86 percent of the earnings the small, single-branch credit union retained over its 62 years of existence, Stiffler wrote.

The credit union on Estes Street, established in 1953, serves about 4,000 employees and retirees from about 18 Muskegon County companies. Its members are designated as low-income.

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