Bank manager arrested on suspicion of theft

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoPa Houa Vue

A former Vancouver bank branch manager has been arrested after allegedly draining $35,000 from an account belonging to a dead customer, police said.

Pa Houa Vue, 40, was working at Washington Federal, 13411 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., when the theft took place in October of 2012, said Gresham Police Department Detective Brandon Crate.

Attempts to contact Vue over the last several months were unsuccessful because she didn’t answer her phone and traveled to California. Based on a tip that she was home, police contacted the U.S. Marshal’s Office, which arrested her Friday May 24 at her home in Boring, Ore.

She’s being held without bail at the Multnomah County Jail pending extradition to Clark County for other accusations, including stealing $12,000 from her branch’s vault, for which another employee was fired. She faces felony charges of aggravated theft, aggravated identity theft and identity theft.

Police say this how the case unfolded.

The alleged theft occurred on Oct. 2, 2012 — a day before her six-month review at Washington Federal. Vue went to a meeting at Washington Federal’s Gresham branch, where she told bank employees she forgot to close a client’s account in Vancouver. She appeared to talk to the client over the phone and then had employees move forward with cashing out the certificates of deposit. A $35,079.44 check was made out to Hai Lo — a variation of her husband’s name, Jai Lor.

She then went to Clackamas County Bank in Gresham, where she told employees she sold a car and that Washington Federal had misspelled the name on the check. The check was deposited into a joint checking account she shares with her husband. Vue was a longtime customer and employees didn’t think to question the transaction, Crate said.

The next day, she went to the Clackamas County branch in Boring and withdrew $5,000 in cash and $13,000 in the form of a cashier’s check.

Meanwhile, a co-worker at her branch in Vancouver was trying to track down the next of kin for an account holder who died in 2009. The employee was looking to turn the proceeds over to beneficiaries. She was surprised to find that the account was closed by Vue in Gresham.

A stop payment was put on the cashier’s check and police were notified. The banks that gave Vue cash and the cashier’s check recovered the money.

While investigating the case, Crate discovered that in August of 2012, $12,000 in cash disappeared from her bank’s vault in Vancouver. Two other employees worked that day besides Vue. Vue conducted an internal investigation, pinning blame on a teller, who was fired for “policy violations.”

Crate also found that in November of 2011, $2,000 went missing from Bank of the West in Southeast Portland, where Vue was branch manager. She was later fired for “policy violations.”

When arrested, Vue, who has six children and had her house repossessed, admitted to the thefts and claimed financial problems led her to take the money, Crate said. She said she was caring for her sick father in California.