Washington Federal Bank for Savings collapse sees another former employee charged

Brian Fong is cooperating with prosecutors. Fifteen bank officials, workers and borrowers have been charged, and a Daley family member was convicted of cheating on his taxes in a related case.

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Washington Federal Bank for Savings, 2869 S. Archer Ave., before it was shut down in December 2017 for “unsafe or unsound practices” days after CEO John F. Gembara was found dead at a bank customer’s home in what authorities called a suicide.

Washington Federal Bank for Savings, 2869 S. Archer Ave., before it was shut down in December 2017 for “unsafe or unsound practices” days after CEO John F. Gembara was found dead at a bank customer’s home in what authorities called a suicide.

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The failure of Washington Federal Bank for Savings has resulted in criminal charges against another former employee of the tiny Bridgeport bank with ties to the Daley family and its political organization.

Brian Fong, who ran the bank’s main office on Archer Avenue, is the 15th person and sixth former employee charged with falsifying bank records and obstructing bank regulators as part of an embezzlement scheme authorities say was led by John F. Gembara, the bank’s late president and chief executive officer.

Fong, 41, who is cooperating with prosecutors, pleaded not guilty Tuesday. He has a deferred-prosecution agreement and could avoid prison in exchange for his cooperation.

Five of his former co-workers also have pleaded guilty in hopes of getting lighter punishment in exchange for their testimony.

Seven of the people who have been charged have pleaded guilty, and one has been convicted of embezzling $8 million.

The bank’s December 2017 collapse also led to criminal charges against then-Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, a Washington Federal borrower who was convicted of cheating on his federal income taxes and lying to bank regulators about how much he owed the bank

Three of the bank’s former board members, including Gembara’s sister Janice M. Weston, face trial in September along with two Washington Federal borrowers. One of those customers was Marek Matczuk, who owned the Park Ridge home where Gembara was found dead by what authorities said was suicide on Dec. 3, 2017.

Federal regulators shut down the bank soon after, on Dec. 15, 2017.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. spent $139.8 million to cover losses from what authorities have described as Gembara’s scheme to give millions of dollars to friends and customers without requiring them to repay the money. So far, the FDIC has recovered about $58 million.

Gembara’s friend Robert M. Kowalski was found guilty in March of embezzling $8 million from the bank.

His sister Jan Kowalski has pleaded guilty to helping hide assets when he filed for bankruptcy protection. Their brother William Kowalski also has a deferred-prosecution deal.

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