Grad student sentenced for fraud

A federal court sentenced a graduate student to 36 months of probation Wednesday for falsifying a bank transaction to pay off thousands of dollars in gambling debts.

The court convicted Joseph Covelli, a 2006 GW alumnus, this January on federal fraud charges after he pleaded guilty. His sentence last week also included a $1,000 fi ne, said Steve Durham, the U.S. Attorney handling the case.

Court documents state that Covelli committed fraud with computers while working as an assistant branch manager at a Connecticut Avenue Commerce Bank, where he had been employed since 2003.

In February 2007, Covelli lost “several thousand dollars” on a trip to casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., according to court documents. The documents state that he lost more than $25,000, which he had withdrawn from his personal Commerce Bank account. With help from a coworker, Covelli used a bank computer to falsely add $50,000 into his account to cover his gambling losses.

Other Commerce Bank employees realized the following day that the bank’s vault was missing $50,000 and subsequently referred the case to the FBI, Durham said. Covelli pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in connection with computers in January.

Covelli could have received five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a U.S. Attorney news release.

“The sentencing was what was anticipated by the plea agreement,” Durham said, adding that the “relatively low dollar amount” contributed to the lower sentence.

Covelli and his attorney both declined to comment on the case.

Durham said this type of fraud is not uncommon.

“Mr. Covelli is not the first bank employee to have committed crimes associated with his job,” he said.

Covelli graduated from the School of Business and is enrolled in a graduate program at GW, officials in the registrar’s office said.

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