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Ex-banker pleads guilty to fraud for improper loans to Billings mansion developer

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Posted at 4:23 PM, Jun 24, 2020

A former Rocky Mountain Bank market president pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to fraud crimes related to loans to the developer of a huge Billings mansion.

Stephen Phillip Casher, 46, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five supervised release for two charges of bank fraud and money laundering, U.S. Kurt Alme said in a news release.

Casher made his plea in the middle of a jury trial that began June 22. Judge Susan P. Watters set his sentencing for Nov. 5.

Casher was charged with 14 counts of fraud and related crimes from when he was the bank's market president from November 2011 through January 2017.

Prosecutors said in court documents and at trial that Casher approved loans from Rocky Mountain Bank to Larry Price Jr., who was building a 26,000-square-foot home on Canyonwood Drive in the Ironwood subdivision and other Billings properties.

Price has pleaded guilty to laundering money from his former employer, Signal Peak Energy, and others to finance the development. He is awaiting sentencing.

While approving bank loans for Price, Casher never disclosed to Rock Mountain Bank that he also made large, private, high-interest loans to Price on his own, prosecutors said.

In September 2014, Casher helped approved a Rocky Mountain Bank loan for $3.75 million to a company controlled by Price, H&P Investments. A few days before the loan approval, Casher and another investor made a private loan to Price for $900,000. That second loan was concealed from statements Casher arranged for Price to sign for the bank, prosecutors said.

Nine months later, Casher helped funnel another high-price loan to Price, according to prosecutors.

Rocky Mountain Bank loaned Seven Lands Holdings, controlled by Price, about $1.18 million. Price then used that money to buy five homes, which he turned into rental properties. One of those homes was owned by Casher, which meant he improperly profited from the deal, prosecutors said.

In addition, several private investors associated with Casher loaned Price $1.5 million, a deal concealed from the bank, prosecutors stated. Casher later received a $20,000 "thank you" for brokering that deal from those investors.

Casher's tenure at Rocky Mountain Bank ended in January 2017.

Casher is on release until sentencing.