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Former banker gets prison for bank fraud, money laundering

January 24, 2021 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former banker from Billings has been sentenced to a year in prison for approving bank loans to a man without disclosing his own private loans to the same man.

Stephen Phillip Casher, 47, was sentenced Friday after earlier pleading guilty to bank fraud and money laundering, The Billings Gazette reports.

Casher and many others were charged for their dealings with former coal executive Larry Price Jr., who has admitted stealing $40 million through various schemes. Price was sentenced to five years in prison last October for defrauding Signal Peak Energy and two private investment groups to which Casher belonged.

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In pleading guilty, Casher admitted he didn’t disclose a private $900,000 loan he’d made to Price in the days before signing off on a $3.75 million bank loan for Price to invest in a Billings subdivision.

Casher, who was a market president at Rocky Mountain Bank, also admitted he did not disclose a $1.5 million private loan that Casher had brokered to Price early in 2015 before the bank loaned Price $1.18 million to buy five homes and turn them into rental properties. Casher did disclose that one of the houses was his.

Scott Sehnert, executive vice president and market president for Rocky Mountain Bank, testified Friday that it had been difficult to mend the bank’s reputation and that some bank employees missed out on bonuses due to the losses.

Price defaulted on a $167,000 line of credit and more than $180,000 on a credit card, court records said.

Defense attorney Mark Parker said Casher lost $1.25 million in one loan to Price and was a member of another investment group that lost $10.3 million to Price.

“If he did a lot of damage, he did it to himself,” Parker said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters noted Casher’s master’s degree and his 17 or 18 years of banking experience.

“But what I keep coming back to with you, Mr. Casher, is that you knew better,” said Watters, who fined Casher $50,000. No restitution was requested or ordered.