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Former Zebulon bank manager to be sentenced on charges of embezzling $645K

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WILMINGTON — A former manager at a credit union in Zebulon pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to stealing at least $645,000.

Johnnie Earl Harrell, 47, is accused of exploiting his position to steal and embezzle funds belonging to the credit union and its customers from 2008 to 2019.

Harrell, who lives in Wake Forest, served as branch manager of Welcome Federal Credit Union in Zebulon, according to his LinkedIn profile and online listings for the bank.

While at the bank, Harrell convinced customers to rollover existing retirement accounts into annuities, according to a press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

But Harrell never purchased the annuities and instead kept the money for personal use, the release said.

He is also accused of preparing fake annuity account statements to present to victims to keep them from realizing their money had been stolen.

Harrell pleaded guilty to charges of theft and embezzlement from a credit union. He could face up to 30 years in prison. He will be sentenced in November or December.

The case was being investigated by the Zebulon Police Department, the N.C. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.