Ex-Synovus banker stole $1 million from accounts. He spent it on jewelry and vacations, feds say

A former commercial banker for Synovus who managed some of the Columbus-based company’s largest accounts diverted more than $1 million in client funds to a personal account he opened at another bank, spending the money on cars, jewelry, vacations and other personal expenses, federal authorities said.

John D. Evans, 48, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to four counts each of bank fraud and tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Clay Land sentenced him Tuesday to serve two years in federal prison and three years on supervised release.

Land also ordered Evans to pay $166,480 in restitution to the bank, and because he paid no income taxes on the money he stole, he also is to pay $221,357 to the Internal Revenue Service, authorities said.

According to court documents, Evans as of Sept. 10, 2018, had paid $829,429 in restitution. Questions regarding the restitution amount were not returned by press time.

Evans pleaded guilty on Nov. 28, 2018, admitting to the thefts that occurred between July 2, 2013, and May 24, 2017, when he diverted a total of $1,046,602 to a personal account.

According to his plea agreement, one of the Synovus clients whose accounts Evans managed was Fourth Quarter Properties, which developed retail shopping centers. Fourth Quarter in 2011 had a Synovus loan balance of about $130 million, and later renegotiated the debt to $90 million.

Restructuring the debt required Fourth Quarter to sell off properties secured by Synovus loans and use the proceeds to pay down the debt. Some payments were held in reserve to pay property taxes or other expenses as the properties were sold, and Evans had access to those funds.

On July 2, 2013, he opened an account at Branch Banking & Trust, or BB&T, under the name “John D. Evans,” doing business as “RE Consulting,” and deposited $51,250. He made the deposit with a CB&T check issued the previous April 16. CB&T is a subsidiary of Synovus.

From then until May 2017, Evans deposited 27 CB&T checks to his private account, the total topping $1 million. He told BB&T he was authorized to make the deposits.

Evans’ tax returns for the years 2013-2016 reported his legitimate income, but not the money he diverted from the Fourth Quarter reserve fund, his plea agreement said.

A news release Tuesday from Charles Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, reported that financial records revealed Evans “used these funds to pay for a wide assortment of his personal expenses, including payments on vehicles, credit card bills, vacations, jewelry, and cash withdrawals.”

Lee Underwood, Synovus communications director, said no Synovus customer lost money because of Evans’ crimes.