Man testifies he was scammed by bank employee

A criminal trial began this week in U.S. Middle District Court for a bank employee who allegedly embezzled money from a Jersey Shore man she befriended.

“She always told me, ‘Don’t tell anybody,'” Anthony Arduini, who was in his mid 50s when the alleged scam occurred in 2012, testified on Tuesday.

The woman he referred to was Jolene Marie Edwards, 39, of Lock Haven, who is charged with bank fraud, embezzlement and interstate transportation of property taken by fraud.

Edwards, who was an assistant branch manager of Jersey Shore State Bank in Jersey Shore, is alleged in 2012 to have bilked Arduini, her former close friend, out of a certificate of deposit for $52,222.

On Tuesday, Arduini was questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel and given bank receipts and other documents. Arduini said she eventually repaid him but only after the alleged embezzlement became known.

Earlier in the trial, D. Toni Byrd, federal public defender, told jurors the money was a gift, but Arduini disputed that on Tuesday.

“I trusted her 100 percent,” he said.

From 2010 to 2014, Edwards bought food for Arduini, picked up prescriptions and cleaned the house he shared with his sick mother, Byrd said. In return, he bought gift cards for Edwards and her children, she said, according to PennLive.com.

Byrd said Edwards was granted power of attorney and through a lawyer drew up a will making her his sole beneficiary.

On Tuesday, it was alleged that Edwards told Arduini, “I won’t have Christmas this year,” when he and his niece asked for the money back.

That summer of 2012, Edwards suggested he put the money in another certificate of deposit — in her name — at another bank.

Rocktashel showed jurors bank statements that indicated all but slightly more than $13 of the $46,000 deposited into the checking account on Aug. 15, 2012, was gone by that Sept. 25.

The statements listed the various expenditures.

Edwards also allegedly convinced Arduini he might qualify for free health care if he didn’t have the certificate of deposit, according to Arduini’s testimony.

Edwards never opened a certificate of deposit at the other bank. Rather, she put all but $6,000 of the $52,222 into a personal checking account at the bank in her name, according to a bank security official’s testimony.

Edwards had Arduini put his money in a certificate deposit in Edwards’ name, according to testimony.

About $6,000 was used to pay off a loan she had obtained from her husband’s retirement savings account, Rocktashel said.

“You’re broke and she has your money,” Arduini’s niece told him.

Arduini’s mother died in May 2014 and, when winter arrived that year, Arduini asked Edwards for money to pay for utility bills.

Edwards reportedly said, “You’ll get your money back,” according to testimony.

Arduini told the prosecutor his money was returned on Dec. 2, 2014.

The trial presided by U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann is scheduled to continue through the week.