Bangor Savings Bank recently fired an employee who worked at its Searsport branch after that person allegedly embezzled nearly $30,000 in customers’ money, and federal authorities are now investigating the matter.

Yellow Light Breen, executive vice president at Bangor Savings Bank, said Monday, Dec. 5 that a customer of the bank’s Searsport branch contacted the bank several weeks ago with a question regarding some transactions on their account. An inquiry into those transactions, according to Breen, uncovered instances where the employee in question had fraudulently altered transactions.

“She had absconded with some of the funds,” said Breen, referring to the employee in question. Breen did not identify the employee by name, and declined to say how long she had worked for the bank. He said that information will likely come out in a court indictment. He also said the employee has been terminated and no longer works for the bank.

The initial inquiry prompted by the customer’s questions led to an investigation that Breen described as “intensive” and “comprehensive.” He said that as a result of the investigation, the bank was able to make a “very solid determination” that a little less than $30,000 was involved in the alleged embezzlement, and that “several dozen” customers were affected.

As of last week, Breen said, the bank has credited all of that money (plus any applicable interest) back to the affected customers.

Breen said the investigation found that no other branches or employees were involved in this incident. He said the former Searsport branch employee allegedly made numerous small alterations over a longer period of time, rather than a small number of large alterations.

“That made it more challenging to prevent and investigate,” said Breen, who also added that the nature of the alleged crime meant it was “less likely that customers would notice it.”

When the bank finished its investigation, it contacted customers whose accounts were directly impacted. Breen said 90 percent were reached by phone, while the remaining 10 percent who could not be reached by phone received personalized and detailed letters.

“We knew rumors were beginning to get around in the community,” he said. “Customers wanted to hear from us, and get the real facts.”

Approximately 2,700 other customers — those who have accounts at the Searsport branch, but whose accounts were not impacted — then received a general letter signed by James J. Conlon, president and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank, and Ellie Flagg, the Searsport branch manager.

Although that letter did not go into as much detail as Breen provided while speaking with VillageSoup, it informed customers, in general terms, of an “unfortunate incident” at the Searsport branch involving an employee who had allegedly committed “fraud against some of our customers by altering some of the withdrawals they made at the branch.”

“We deeply regret this has happened,” the letter stated. “There is nothing more serious to us than a trusted employee abusing his or her relationship with customers in such a manner.”

Breen and the other officials, in their letter, emphasized that for customers who were not contacted personally by the bank — either in a phone call, or through a personalized letter — the bank’s investigation found no evidence that any of their accounts were impacted.

Breen said that while the bank has numerous measures in place to try and prevent fraud, it is not possible to prevent every instance. Anytime the bank receives any information about a possible case of fraud, Breen said bank officials move to find and resolve it quickly.

Customers have had questions and concerns, Breen said, but have generally responded positively, both to the personal contact for those whose accounts were impacted and also to the general letter sent out to other account holders. The alleged embezzlement has been “very stressful” for those who were impacted by it, said Breen, including customers and the bank’s employees.

“They feel betrayed by a former colleague,” he said, referring to the ex-employee’s co-workers.

The matter is under investigation by the FBI, according to Breen, who said the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have jurisdiction in a case like this because it is considered a federal crime. Breen explained that is because although Bangor Savings Bank is chartered by the state of Maine, it is insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Breen said it may take several months or more for the federal agencies to complete their investigation.