Elizabeth M. Stout, 34, 7160 Ohio 160, was found guilty by a jury of 12 in July 2007 and was sentenced to the Ohio Reformatory for Women for 17 months for the theft of $17,627.85 from Ohio Valley Bank Co. and 17 months for forgery for forging a countercheck in the amount of $1,000 on the account of an elderly or disabled person.
Both sentences are to be served concurrently. Her case was later submitted to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, citing errors in the prosecution’s case.
According to court records, Stout was working for Ohio Valley Bank when she established a working relationship with the elderly victim. As the victim’s physical and mental health deteriorated, Stout put through a number of transactions on her account(s) in violation of bank policy. In August 2006, the bank received a “whistle blower” form and conducted an investigation, eventually determining that $17,627.85 was withdrawn from the victim’s accounts that could not be accounted for.
At the trial, an OVB employee testified that numerous transactions from 2004 to 2007 were put through on the victim’s accounts by Stout. In many instances, the transactions were initiated through an “advice of charge,” a form used when a customer calls in and wants an account debited and money transferred to another account, but were followed by “cash out,” a payment of cash to a customer present at the teller window, of a part of the transaction as if the customer was present at the time.
Some of those transactions, but not all, were followed by deposits into Stout’s personal accounts at the bank.
Stout maintained that the victim would telephone her at the bank, request that she make a certain transaction with her account(s) and then bring her cash from that transaction as spending money. However, it was determined that the victim was not part of the bank’s program for house calls and even if she had been, it was against bank policy for more than $100 to be delivered to a customer without two people making that delivery.
Two assignments of error were cited in Stout’s appeal. The first asserted that her convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence and are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Basically, no direct evidence exists to show that she forged the victim’s signature to a countercheck, or stole money from her. It is contended that the only evidence shown by the prosecution was that Stout failed to follow correct bank procedure in withdrawing the money and delivering it to the victim.
Stout’s first assignment of error was overruled as it was concluded that although no direct evidence exists to prove that she took the monies, the circumstantial evidence is compelling and a person can be convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence.
As for the forgery conviction, uncontroverted evidence revealed that the countercheck signature did not belong to the victim, and since Stout processed the transactions and in light of her involvement with all of the other transactions, it could be reasonably concluded that she forged the countercheck that she processed.
The second assignment of error maintained that Stout was deprived of effective assistance of counsel because of the failure to consult a handwriting expert and failure to cross-examine the state’s lay witness with familiarity of the victim and Stout’s handwriting.
This was overruled on the basis that Stout did not offer anything to show that a handwriting expert would have concluded that the countercheck signature was not written by her hand nor that additional cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses would have produced a different outcome.