Macon, Ga. – Three co-conspirators involved in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud millions from Citizens Bank and Trust (CB&T) have been sentenced for their crimes, announced Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. On Monday, December 16, 2019, former CB&T City Bank President McDonald Hardin, 57, of Kathleen, Georgia was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment, three years supervised release and ordered to pay $1,437,651.07 in restitution to CB&T and $1,900,000 in restitution to Progressive Insurance after pleading guilty on May 2, 2019 to count one of a 14 count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. His co-conspirator, Steve Stokeling, 55, formerly of Warner Robins, Georgia, was sentenced to 78 months imprisonment, five years supervised release and ordered to pay $28,832.15 in restitution to CB&T after pleading guilty on May 2, 2019 to count nine of a 14 count indictment charging him with bank fraud. This morning, the third co-conspirator, Joseph Askew, 43, of Perry, Georgia, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, one year supervised release and ordered to pay $1,437,651.07 in restitution to CB&T and $120,765.10 in restitution to Progressive Insurance after pleading guilty on January 30, 2018 to one count information charging the defendant with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell presided over the sentencings. There is no parole in the federal system.
Beginning in February 2008 through August of 2010, Hardin, the City President and Senior Lending Officer at the CB&T Warner Robins branch, participated in a loan scheme designed to generate loan proceeds from fraudulent loans to Stokeling and Askew, their friends and family members, and borrowers recruited by Stokeling and Askew who would sign loan documents without any expectation of receiving the loan proceeds. Hardin approved the loans, and CB&T would issue checks. The loan money was distributed to various persons, including defendant Stokeling for his personal gain, and not used for the intended purposes of the loan, like the purchase of cars or homes. In all, CB&T was defrauded of $5,067,333.17.
“Community banks are a cornerstone of our local economy. They employ our citizens, fund local businesses, support local organizations and bank our families. When criminals defraud local banks our office will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “The FDIC-OIG initiated this investigation after a tip from within CB&T. The FBI and FDIC-OIG did a tremendous job getting to the bottom of this complex loan scheme, and helping root out the fraud.”
“These sentencings hold the conspirators accountable for defrauding the bank of more than $5 million in a scheme designed to line their pockets,” said FDIC Inspector General Jay N. Lerner. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to preserve the integrity of the banking system against insiders who abuse their positions to commit fraud.”
“The sentencing of these three subjects brings to a close a lengthy investigation and prosecution of a criminal enterprise that obtained fraudulent loans that caused extensive damage to a local community bank,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This case is an example of the FBI’s commitment to combatting such criminal actions that defraud hard working citizens.”
The case was investigated by the FDIC-OIG and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shanelle Booker prosecuted the case for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.