Former banker charged with stealing from client accounts

Grafton resident faces charge of felony theft, accused of taking $78,000
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A 36-year-old Grafton man was charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court Monday with stealing  more than $78,000 from customers of the U.S. Bank branch in Cedarburg where he worked.

Justin D. Brownlee faces one count of felony theft in a business setting. 

According to his LinkedIn account, Brownlee held multiple positions at the bank, most recently business banking officer, over the eight years he worked there.

In February, a U.S. Bank security employee told a Cedarburg police officer that a bank investigation concluded that Brownlee stole $78,862 from customers’ accounts through 39 transactions over a more-than-one-year period from Dec. 7, 2017 to Dec. 28, 2018, according to the criminal complaint. Brownlee paid back $2,000 to one customer who discovered the theft. 

The total loss to U.S. Bank was $76,862, the complaint states.

The bank investigation revealed that Brownlee used various schemes to steal the money — withdrawing money out of checking accounts using a generic U.S. Bank withdrawal slip, taking portions of loan disbursements or payments, taking advances from personal equity lines of credit and skimming funds for miscellaneous transaction requests, according to the criminal complaint.

Brownlee converted the money from most of the transactions into a U.S. Bank cashier’s check payable to U.S. Bank, then deposited the checks into his personal account at a different branch location. In other instances, Brownlee received cash for the withdrawals or appraisal checks that he deposited into his account, the complaint states.

During a Jan. 11 interview with bank officials, Brownlee admitted to stealing the money and signed a written statement that included the following: “I have made the largest mistake of my life. I knowingly stole money from multiple customers to fix my financial situation. I did it multiple times and feel as bad as I could right now. I am deeply sorry,” according to the complaint.

The crime Brownlee is charged with carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison followed by five years of extended supervision. 

He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on April 17.

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