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May 26, 2011

Police say ex-banker stole from Rock Hill church

A former Rock Hill banker who went to prison amid a financial scandal that rocked a bank and took down a city councilman now faces charges that he took money from a local church.

A former Rock Hill banker who went to prison amid a financial scandal that rocked a bank and took down a city councilman now faces charges that he took money from a local church.

Robert M. Yoffie, 61, convicted nine years ago of willful misapplication of bank funds, now faces petty larceny charges.

The Rev. Charles Foss, rector of The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour on Caldwell Street, told Rock Hill Police last week that someone had been stealing money from the church's collection bags for the past year.

Suspicions arose after he noticed the bags had been tampered with, according to a police report.

A hidden camera was placed in the room that houses the church's safe.

At about 10:15 p.m. May 15, the report states, video from the camera showed a man open the safe, open deposit bags, take out money, put it in his pockets and leave the room.

The money in the bags had been previously counted and contained $83 less after the man took money out, the report states.

Police say that man was Yoffie, who turned himself in on May 18.

Reached at his home Wednesday, Yoffie declined to comment.

Foss also declined to comment.

In 2002, Yoffie pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of willful misapplication of bank funds from Rock Hill Bank & Trust.

He was a senior vice president and senior trust officer at the bank when he resigned in 2001, days before a lawsuit was filed against him and the bank for willful misdirection of funds.

The case involved an incident in which a bank customer received a $200,000 loan that was secured by a trust fund account, and then released the trust money back to the customer.

Yoffie was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and was released in 2004.

A second charge of making false entries at the bank was dismissed as part of the plea deal. He also cooperated with federal investigators in exchange for his plea.

The bank scandal first emerged in February 2001, when a lawsuit claimed the bank and Yoffie had misdirected $9.5 million in a high-yield investment account.

After the lawsuit was filed, federal investigators began looking into the bank's operations, and the criminal charges stemmed from that probe.

The lawsuit was settled in July 2001. The bank received $7.6 million from insurers, but not before posting a $4.2 million loss.

A year later, the bank's shareholders voted to dissolve the bank's parent company and sell its assets to Carolina First Bank.

In a separate case, former bank president Rob Herron, who resigned from the Rock Hill City Council amid the scandal, was sentenced in 2004 to 15 months in prison for bank fraud and ordered to pay $327,470 in restitution.

Two Fort Mill men who were customers of the bank also were sentenced to 21 months and 10 months in prison for their roles in the loan fraud case.

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