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Matthew Lester faces up to five years in prison for stealing nearly $1.9 million.
Friday, June 7, 2013
A former Rocky Mount timber company executive faces one to five years in prison for stealing nearly $1.9 million from the company’s bank and later taking an undetermined sum from a subsequent employer.
Matthew Ayers Lester, 37, of Roanoke County pleaded guilty Friday to felony charges of bank fraud and wire fraud brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Roanoke. Lester was directed to return to court in September to be sentenced.
Citing a possible sentence of 12 to 60 months agreed to by Lester, his defense attorney and prosecutors, Judge Samuel Wilson told Lester: “You will be sentenced somewhere in that range.”
Lester, who stood before Wilson in a brown suit, indicated he understood.
He must pay back his victims as well. Though the final restitution amount isn’t yet known, Lester agreed to take financial responsibility for “the entire scope” of his conduct, Wilson said.
Between June 2005 and February 2009 Lester was vice president of International Log & Timber LLC, a log brokerage company in Rocky Mount, where he made most decisions about company finances, according to the charges.
The company operated with the help of a $2.8 million commercial loan from SunTrust Bank in Roanoke, the charges said. Under its terms, the bank checked the company’s outstanding loan balance and any requests for more money against a monthly report of company assets, including the value of accounts receivable and inventory. In a scheme to get more money, however, Lester and a company controller who worked at his direction submitted false asset reports, the charges said.
Because of Lester’s falsehoods, the bank lost nearly $1.9 million, the charges said.
The bank tried unsuccessfully to recover its funds when International Log & Timber filed bankruptcy in 2009. The company later closed.
After leaving International Log, Lester joined The Turman Group and Turman Trading LLC of Christiansburg with a responsibility to buy and sell logs. There, he borrowed $15,000 from a customer and repaid part of the loan by giving the customer discounts on log purchases, the charges said, noting that his use of email for loan-related communication constituted wire fraud. An investigator testified that Lester did not have permission to issue discounts.
Tony Anderson, Lester’s attorney, said Lester would present more information at his sentencing hearing.
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