November 29, 2011 | 10:24am
A high-profile Orange County banker has pleaded guilty to embezzling almost $2 million from a customer's account at the bank founded by his relatives.
Matthew J. Walker, 34, of Orange, stole the money from a customer's account at Farmers and Merchants Bank, where he was vice president and branch manager of the Laguna Hills branch, according to a plea agreement.
Yesterday, before U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford in Santa Ana,Walker pleaded guilty to one count of theft of bank funds. Walker admitted, therefore, that over a 16-month period, which culminated last July, he withdrew $1,973,000 from a line of credit in the name of a trust that had an account at Farmers and Merchants, according to a press release put out by the U.S. Attorney's Office Central District of California.
And, in an effort to hide his scheme, Walker paid interest on the line of credit's balance, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Waier
. Walker kept the money for personal use and invested some of it in a company called
, Inc., according to the plea agreement.
C.J. Walker founded Farmers and Merchants bank in 1907 and ownership and management has stayed in the family since then, according to the bank's website.
Daniel Walker, Matthew's father and president of the bank, told the Los Angeles Times that the bank found out about his son's scheme during a routine audit and immediately fired him and reimbursed the customer.
Daniel Walker is quoted in the Times' story
saying: "We're very disappointed. This was an unfortunate incident. This was a business deal he was doing on his own."
Walker's sentencing is slated for May 21 and he faces a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. With the plea agreement, though, he's expected to get about four years, the press release states.