Lenox National Bank official fired after ‘monetary loss' discovered


LENOX -- A senior management official at Lenox National Bank has been fired for apparent "violations of bank procedure" and a "monetary loss" discovered internally last Thursday, according to bank President Paul Merlino.

Merlino did not identify the official, but multiple sources confirmed that Joseph Leskovitz, who had been executive vice president and was a 30-year employee of the bank, had been dismissed.

The discovery came amid a joint FBI and local police investigation into the embezzlement of an estimated $400,000 from the bank.

In a note mailed to bank customers, Merlino wrote that during its "continuing review of bank operations, we learned that a senior management official appears to have violated bank procedure. The senior manager was immediately dismissed on March 6."

Merlino emphasized that the missing funds were from bank reserves, not from depositors' accounts, which are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

In an interview with The Eagle, Merlino said the official's employment was terminated "based on additional facts learned during the bank's ongoing investigation of alleged embezzlement by two long-time employees." Two tellers were dismissed last November in connection with the probe. The missing funds had been identified by bank auditors.

The bank president, who said he felt "stabbed in the back" by the latest revelation, said he had been in immediate contact with the FBI about the latest development. The amount of the "monetary loss" attributed to his No. 2 executive has not been determined.

"Money can be replaced since it's insured," he said, "but reputation is built over the years and it's our primary concern. We want to show stability and strength."

"We're hurt over the loss of funds," he added, "but we're devastated over the loss of trust. We thank the community for the support it has given us."

No charges have been filed against any of the three individuals pending the conclusion of the FBI and local police investigation.

The supervisor of the FBI's Springfield office, Mark Karangikis, confirmed on Tuesday that no arrests and no court action had resulted yet from the agency's probe.

He told The Eagle that he could neither comment on the "ongoing investigation," nor on the dismissal of the bank's second-in-command official.

Asked about the expected duration of the probe, Karangikis said: "It will take as long as it takes in order to conduct a complete and thorough investigation."

Because Lenox National is among the banks handling Town Hall accounts, co-interim Town Manager Mary Ellen Deming notified members of the Select Board on Tuesday afternoon about Merlino's announcement.

According to Deming, town government remains confident about the reputation and integrity of the 125-year-old bank, the county's smallest and one of the few surviving independent community banks in the region.

"The bank has been an institution in Lenox," said Select Board Chairman David Roche, "and I have all the confidence in the world that this will be resolved."

Members of the bank's board of directors were informed at their annual meeting on Tuesday, Merlino said.

On his recommendation, based on a longtime friendship, the board hired veteran Berkshire County banker William Wheelock as the new senior vice president.

In a career dating back to 1971, Wheelock has worked for the former Berkshire Bank and Trust Co., the Old Colony Bank (a division of First National Bank of Boston), Bank of New England, Fleet Bank, North Adams Hoosac Savings Bank (later Hoosac Bank, now Mountain One), South Adams Savings Bank and, until his retirement one year ago, Adams Community Bank.

Wheelock described his mission at Lenox National as assuring customers that "there's a continuity of good, experienced management that knows Berkshire County and the Lenox marketplace."

To contact Clarence Fanto:


or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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