Cancer-faking banker who bilked charity headed to prison

SEATTLE -- A cancer-faking banker who stole more than $1 million from a Tacoma charity is headed to prison.

Former Northwest Commercial Bank loan officer Jeffrey R. Goodell swindled Tacoma's Rescue Mission - a non-profit serving people struggling with addiction, homelessness or other difficulties - out of about $1.3 million through an elaborate series of fraudulent loans.

Goodell, 32, also shaved his head and claimed to have cancer because he wanted to roll his accrued vacation time into the next year. Least among his misdeeds, he also falsified his resume; Goodell claimed a theology degree he didn't earn, as well as a bachelor's in business.

Writing the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm argued Goodell deserves a six-year prison term - nearly the maximum usual sentence - and should be ordered to repay more than $917,000 stolen during the fraud. Goodell, the federal prosecutor argued, defrauded his employer and its clients "with a vengeance."

"Goodell's extraordinary effort, moreover, caused extraordinary harm - the theft of in excess of $1.3 million," Storm told the court. "Goodell's conduct caused bank employees, many of whom were not being compensated, to work around the clock to clean up the mess Goodell created, and, caused one employee to lose his job."

On Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle sentenced Goodell to five years in prison. The judge also ordered Goodell pay the restitution requested by prosecutors.

Charged federally in September, Goodell was accused of draining two accounts opened by the Rescue Mission in August 2010.

According to court papers, Goodell began drafting cashier's checks on the charity's accounts and transferring money out. Goodell then shifted the Rescue Mission's money to 14 people and businesses.

According to charging documents, Goodell went so far as to alter legitimate loan agreements to conceal his fraud. He is also alleged to have drawn others into the scheme.

Facing questions from a coworker, Goodell had a woman pose as the Rescue Mission's chief financial officer during a phone call, prosecutors told the court. Goodell purportedly went on to forge a series of emails from the charity's executive.

Goodell faked an account statement for the charity after its chief financial officer grew suspicious, and - having already drained the charity's accounts - forged the signature of the Rescue Mission's chief executive officer to open an $800,000 line of credit.

Goodell attempted to pose as a cancer patient while the fraud was underway. His aim, prosecutors say, was to avoid taking time off from the scam.

"In order to evade Northwest Commercial Bank leave policy requiring all employees to take their leave during the year it was earned, and thereby continue his fraudulent conduct, Jeffrey R. Goodell shaved his head and informed bank management that he had cancer and needed to save his leave," prosecutors told the court. "Once the cancer progressed, he would need to take a lot of time off."

Having pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud, Goodell had not faced serious legal trouble prior to the current allegations.

Writing the court, Goodell's attorney Michael S. Clark contended his client's motivations remain a mystery. The fraud itself was doomed from inception, and has cost Goodell dearly.

"It is hard to conceive of a more ill-fated criminal scheme than the one that the defendant perpetrated," Clark told the court, asking that Goodell be sentenced to two years in prison.

Clark noted much of the money his client pulled from the Rescue Mission's account was loaned to others, who believed they were receiving legitimate loans from the bank. It didn't long for others at the bank to realize the fraud.

Storm rejected the contention that Goodell's motivations were in part altruistic. His first fraud was meant to funnel Rescue Mission funds to an acquaintance; that Goodell changed his objective partway through, the federal prosecutor continued, strains belief.

Goodell was ordered jailed following Monday's hearing. He is expected to be transferred to a Bureau of Prisons facility in coming days.