Woman of the Year arrested on embezzlement charges in Tulare

TULARE, Calif.

In the complaint against her, investigators say Sell withdrew more than $300,000 from ATMs at local casinos.

56-year-old Jeri Sell was arrested at her home just before 7:00 a.m. Monday morning for stealing close to $700,000 from her own customers' bank accounts.

Before a nearly 8-month long investigation into Jeri Sell resulted in embezzlement charges -- Sell had been considered a respected community leader.

The former Citizens Business Bank manager was awarded the Tulare Chamber of Commerce's Woman of the Year back in 2008. Now ... Sell is in jail, accused of stealing $679,000 from her own customers' accounts.

Tulare Police Dept., Sgt. Richard House said, "These are felony charges they can result in prison term also there's a potential that restitution may be ordered."

Back in April, California Department of Justice officers served a search warrant at the bank to look at Jeri Sell's and other customers' bank records.

"There are literally thousands and thousands of pieces of paper that have to be reviewed to determine money movement and money tracking and it does take a great deal of time and perseverance on that case," said Sgt. House.

The complaint filed against Sell states she stole thousands of dollars from five separate victims ... including the owner of El Presidente Restaurant and Bar in Visalia.

Some victims were missing more than $200,000. An investigator in the complaint suggested sell had a gambling problem because the withdrawals she made from casino ATMs were more than the cash deposits into her account.

Customer Sheri Barnes says she believes sell stole nearly $2,000 of cash she placed in the night deposit box.

Barnes said, "I've already filled out the claim and they have acknowledged that it's missing and they have forms I need to fill out to show it's missing."

Barnes has now moved most of her money to another bank. While she's upset by what happened, she feels sad for Jeri Sell.

Several other customers we talked with said they still feel safe placing their money here.

Sell will be arraigned Tuesday. Coincidentally she's being held on $679,000 bail, the same amount she's accused of stealing.

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