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Former Shelbyville office manager charged with embezzlement

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A former office manager of a title insurance company in Shelbyville is facing federal charges relating to his alleged embezzlement of $1.6 million from the business.

Federal prosecutors in Indianapolis charged John Keith Branam, 55, of Shelbyville, on Thursday with one count each of bank fraud, money laundering and filing false individual income tax returns.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the Shelbyville Police Department.

Branam served as office manager of King’s Title & Abstract Co. in Shelbyville from 1996 until 2007, when he was terminated, according to U.S. District Court documents.

In 2004, Branam allegedly began embezzling money from the company by opening bank accounts using several fictitious business names, including Branam Properties, Rocksolid Investments and King’s, the documents said.

Branam had signatory authority over the King’s Title escrow account, in which he either wrote King’s Title checks to his fictitious companies, or used checks to purchase cashier's checks or official checks payable to the companies, prosecutors allege. Branam then deposited those checks into his bank accounts.

In early 2005, he was removed as a signatory on the King’s Title bank account, but prosecutors said he continued to embezzle money from the company by getting an office employee, who had signature authority, to provide him blank signed checks.

The employee was unaware of the embezzlement and believed Branam needed the checks to pay title company expenses and conduct title company business, according to court documents.

From 2004 to 2007, prosecutors said, Branam obtained a total of $1.6 million, on which he failed to pay $360,000 in income taxes.

He faces a maximum sentence of 43 years in prison and a fine of $1.5 million.
 

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