Ex-banker hid private money deals from employers, approved loans despite conflict of interest, prosecutors say
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Ex-banker hid private money deals from employers, approved loans despite conflict of interest, prosecutors say

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Steven Casher court arrival closeup

Steven Casher arrives for a U.S. District Court hearing in Billings in 2018. Casher is currently on trial in U.S. District Court in Billings on charges of bank fraud, money laundering and false entry in bank books.

A former loan officer with Rocky Mountain Bank failed to disclose millions of dollars in private financial dealings he had with a bank customer when signing off on bank loans to that person, prosecutors told a jury on Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich said Stephen Phillip Casher approved a series of loans to Larry Price Jr. during his time at Rocky Mountain Bank, where he worked as a market president until 2017.

But Casher didn’t tell the bank he had his own business dealings with Price, outside of work, and that Price’s financial situation could impact him personally, creating a conflict of interest, Rubich said.

Over a period of years, Casher provided or facilitated roughly $5 million in high-interest private loans to Price, the prosecutor said. 

For the bank loans, Price served as the personal guarantor, which underscored the bank’s need to have the full picture of Price’s financial circumstances, Rubich said.

“This was not a mistake,” Rubich said. “…This was deliberate.”

Casher’s trial began Monday in U.S. District Court in Billings.

Casher similarly held private financial dealings with Kisling Quality Builders that he did not disclose while overseeing James and Timilynn Kisling's loan application at the bank, prosecutors say. 

A proposed plea deal was rejected by Casher that would have required him to admit two of 14 counts and see the rest dropped. He’s charged with bank fraud, money laundering and false entry in bank books. Prosecutors dropped one count of blackmail a week before trial.

Casher is among the web of people tied to Price who were charged with crimes after Price — facing a reckoning over millions of dollars he owed — staged his own abduction. Price has since pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and lying to the FBI, and is living in Virginia awaiting sentencing later this summer.

Price, a former executive at Signal Peak Mine, is a government witness in the case against Casher. He began his testimony Monday.

In opening arguments, defense attorney Mark Parker said Casher was clear with the bank from the start that he would be trying to bring in his personal business associates as bank customers, something that helped him get hired, Parker said.

Parker said the lending his client approved on behalf of Rocky Mountain Bank had “solid” collateral, in the form of residential properties.

He also said the reason the FBI learned of Casher’s financial dealings outside of the bank was because Casher approached the agents himself to tell them Price had “robbed” him. Casher was involved in a loan to finance the purchase of coal equipment for a mine in the Eastern U.S., but Price put the money instead into his Billings mansion, Parker said.

“You don’t hide stuff from the world by going and telling the FBI about it,” Parker said.

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