Former Lenox National Bank VP Joseph E. Leskovitz admits to embezzlement, money laundering

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LENOX — The former No. 2 executive of the Lenox National Bank has pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement and a single count of money laundering, as well as attempting to conceal the thefts.

Joseph E. Leskovitz, 56, formerly of Lenox and now a Becket resident, is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni on Nov. 15.

The U.S. Justice Department announced recently that Leskovitz entered guilty pleas to the four felony counts involving thefts over a five-year period ending in 2014. The amount totaled $154,783.

Leskovitz was the longtime executive vice president of Lenox National at 7 Main St. The county's last free-standing, independent bank was sold to Adams Community Bank last year for $14.3 million.

The indictment brought by U.S. Assistant Attorney Karen Goodwin in Springfield followed an investigation by the FBI and Lenox Police.

Leskovitz raided five certificate of deposit accounts held by two individuals at Lenox National between June 2009 and February 2014 for his personal use, the indictment stated. He was accused of embezzling the funds "with intent to injure and defraud the Lenox National Bank."

Leskovitz stole money from deposits he was entrusted to manage for family members and clients, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. In addition, he opened a loan in the name of a an individual without the person's knowledge and stole the proceeds, the indictment alleged.

Under federal statute, the embezzlement charges could carry a maximum of 30 years in prison and a fine of $250,000; the money laundering charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties, the U.S. Attorney's office pointed out.

Leskovitz's attorney, Lori Levinson, of Great Barrington, told The Eagle that the federal "advisory guideline sentencing range" is 27 to 33 months, "and we will be seeking a downward variance from that range based on several mitigating factors that we will raise at sentencing."

"He is extremely remorseful for what he did, and accepted personal responsibility for his actions immediately on being questioned by the then bank president," Levinson stated. "He fully cooperated with the bank in providing all the information they would need to trace the funds that he improperly transferred to himself. Part of his agreement is that he will make full restitution to the bank, which was his intent at all times."

Pending his sentencing, Leskovitz was released on condition that he surrender his passport, maintain his current residence and not possess any firearms, according to the terms of a court order.

Leskovitz had been employed at Lenox National Bank for more than 30 years until he was terminated in March 2014 for alleged loss of funds uncovered by bank auditors, as well as violations of accounting procedures.

He was implicated after federal authorities launched an investigation in 2013 into alleged thefts totaling $378,000 by longtime bank teller Melissa J. Scolforo, 47, of Lee. In May, she pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting to stealing the money over five years beginning in 2008 and submitting false reports to cover up the missing funds. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 15.

According to witnesses at Scolforo's court appearance where she acknowledged conspiring with another teller to defraud the bank, Leskovitz did not verify amounts in tellers' drawers, relying on verbal statements instead.

The indictment stated that Scolforo, employed at Lenox National for 24 years, and the second teller, Bernadine Powers, spent the cash stolen from teller drawers and bank vaults on travel, shopping, restaurant meals and payments of household bills.

The maximum sentence for Scolforo could be five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, but a lighter sentence is expected to be imposed by Mastroianni based on sentencing guidelines and other factors. Scolforo, who is represented by Pittsfield attorney Elizabeth Quigley, was released into her own custody last May.

U.S. Attorney Goodwin explained at the court hearing for Scolforo that the thefts continued for five years because the bank did not conduct required quarterly audits. According to Goodwin, Leskovitz "trusted the tellers to simply tell him how much money was in their drawers and the vault and he would simply sign off on them."

Powers, 40, of Becket, was indicted May 5 and pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle bank funds and make false bank entries between February 2011 and November 2013 to conceal the cash thefts.

Her case is scheduled for a Sept. 29 hearing by U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson, who previously released Powers into her own custody. At that time, a trial date could be set unless a plea agreement has been negotiated.

The federal sentencing guidelines indicate Powers could face up to 33 months in prison if convicted, as well as forfeiture of personal property as restitution. She is represented by Pittsfield attorney Leonard Cohen.

Powers and Scolforo were dismissed in November 2013 after the bank's auditors finally detected the scheme. In early March 2014, bank President Paul Merlino fired Leskovitz for violating procedures resulting in the loss of funds from bank reserves.

No depositors lost money as a result of the crimes. Merlino retired after the bank was acquired by Adams Community Bank, which took over the Main Street office last October.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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