Crime

Credit union VP who admitted taking $350K was accused at another Coast bank years earlier

The first time former vice president of Singing River Federal Credit Union Merredith Christina “Christi” McMillian was accused of possible criminal activity, she was top officer at another South Mississippi financial institution.

In December 2013, a supervisory committee at Navigator called in McMillian, of Vancleave, to question her about her handling of money taken out of an account in her grandmother’s name. Specifically, Navigator’s top brass accused McMillan of “taking money out of her grandmother’s account and not using the funds appropriately.”

McMillian denied any wrongdoing and she, her brother, and her now late grandmother wrote letters to Navigator to explain how they were spending the money from her grandmother’s account.

A month later, Navigator’s CEO reprimanded McMillian again, this time because of a “posting error” in the credit union’s database that McMillian blamed on someone in her department. McMillan was given the option to resign or face firing. She resigned.

McMillian, who is also owner of Dreamworks Gymnastics in Ocean Springs, had been working at Navigator for nearly 22 years at the time the allegations surfaced.

She began at Navigator as an assistant bank teller in 1991 and advanced through the ranks over the years to become a loan manager, consumer loan manager, special projects leader and chief information officer. Because of her positions, she had access to customer accounts.

After her resignation, she filed a complaint against Navigator with the EEOC.

In the Jan 2014 complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, McMillian said she was forced into the Jan. 22, 2014, resignation from Navigator based on a “biased investigation” involving the misuse money from her grandmother’s account.

“This was not true,” she wrote. “The reason I was dismissed was due to commingling of funds, misuse of my position as a senior manager, not being joint on a business loan and the refinance of a loan for my grandmother.”

Elder abuse?

McMillian brought the allegations of alleged wrongdoing at Navigator to light herself when she filed a federal lawsuit in February 2015 against Navigator and its president and CEO for alleged sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation.

The case never went to trial because McMillan and Navigator settled the case.

In the suit, McMillian claimed she was victimized at Navigator because she had filed a sexual harassment claim. She also alleged gender discrimination for unequal pay between male and female employees and retaliation.

The retaliation claim centered around how Navigator allegedly terminated its contract for lawn care with McMillian’s husband, a district fire chief for Jackson County Emergency Services, when she claims she was forced to resign.

More so, she said Navigator retaliated against her by reporting to the state Department of Human Services alleged elder abuse of McMillian’s grandmother.

McMillian denied any wrongdoing in the DHS probe and was never charged in the case.

A similar story

Last week, McMillan pleaded guilty to a federal charge of theft of over $350,000 from Singing River Federal Credit Union. The allegations in that case, in part, also included alleged wrongdoing involving money in McMillian’s grandmother’s estate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn Van Buskirk said the wrongdoing at SRFCU came to light after a 2018 audit and subsequent probe than uncovered a “web of fraudulent activity” involving McMillian.

At Singing River, the theft began shortly after McMillan got a legitimate loan using her grandmother’s estate as collateral. Shortly afterward, McMillan went into the credit union database and removed her grandmother’s estate as collateral.

She did the same thing with her grandmother’s estate at least five different times to borrow more money. In addition, she manipulated a customer’s account to take out to several other unsecured loans.

The federal prosecutor said McMillian even victimized a friend in the scheme, using her name and information from her money market account to secure another loan, this one for $47,500.

The fraudulent loans McMillian took out ranged from as little as $5,000 to over $60,000.

“She used the loan money to try and pay back the illegitimate loans obtained from her grandmother’s estate,” Van Buskirk said. “She also took out loans in her husband and father’s names without their consent.”

Paul Thompson, Singing River’s chief operations and business services manager, said Monday: “No member was ever at risk. No member lost any money.”

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