Ex-Senior Executive at Chinatown Bank to Be Sentenced in May for Embezzlement

Ex-Senior Executive at Chinatown Bank to Be Sentenced in May for Embezzlement
The Los Angeles County Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles, on Jan. 11, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
City News Service

LOS ANGELES—A former chief financial officer of a downtown Los Angeles bank faces sentencing in May for embezzling more than $700,000 of his employer’s funds and stealing colleagues’ identities to open life insurance policies in their names to benefit his wife.

Sammy Sims, 61, of West Covina, pleaded guilty Feb. 22 in downtown Los Angeles to one federal count of bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to prosecutors, the Chinatown-based Eastern International Bank hired Mr. Sims in September 2017 as the lender’s CFO. As a condition of his employment, Mr. Sims agreed that he would not use the bank’s confidential information for his personal benefit or for others. The bank’s policy also required Mr. Sims to promptly disclose any conflicts or appearances of conflict with the bank’s interests.

Prosecutors said that from August 2018 to October 2020, Mr. Sims wired $86,000 in bank funds to the U.S. Treasury and California Franchise Tax Board to make payments toward the personal federal and state income taxes for himself and his wife. Mr. Sims concealed the transactions by creating false entries in the bank’s general ledger that falsely claimed the payments were for the bank’s tax accounts, prosecutors said.

In April 2019, Mr. Sims sent about $14,161 in bank funds to a debt collection agency to help pay off a debt he had incurred. Mr. Sims hid the transaction by creating a false entry in the bank’s general ledger that falsely stated the payment was for data processing software, prosecutors said.

Mr. Sims admitted that from April 2019 to December 2020, he took about $113,264 in money belonging to the bank to pay the balances on his personal credit card.

From February 2020 to April 2021, Mr. Sims also lied to several bank employees by telling them they had to switch their bank-funded life insurance policies because of their age, but the policies were obtained through Mr. Sims’ wife, a licensed life insurance broker who received a commission for each policy she sold, prosecutors said. For some employees, Mr. Sims obtained their personal identifying information and used the information to purchase life insurance policies from his wife. Mr. Sims used a checking account belonging to the bank to wire about $311,608 of the bank’s money to several life insurance companies to partially pay for the premiums for the policies, prosecutors said.

When Mr. Sims was later confronted about the life insurance policies opened using bank employees’ personal information, he lied by saying the employees’ identities could have been stolen through a cybersecurity hack or by unauthorized disclosures by the bank’s personnel department, according to prosecutors. Mr. Sims resigned from the bank shortly after being confronted about the life insurance policies.

In total, Mr. Sims unlawfully took at least $737,849 of bank funds for his personal use and benefit, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When sentenced on May 10, Mr. Sims will face up to 30 years in federal prison, prosecutors noted.