Woman gets 5 months for kiting checks

June 21, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced a Columbia woman yesterday to five months in prison for a five-year check-kiting scheme in which she stole over $78,000 from an Ellicott City bank.

Lavida B. Smith, 40, was also ordered to pay Citizens Bank of Maryland $25,200 in restitution over a three-year probation period. Under an agreement with the bank, Smith will continue making monthly payments of $700 until the remainder of the stolen money is paid back.

Judge Marvin J. Garbis also required Smith to serve an additional five months in home detention. Smith pleaded guilty March 25 to one count of bank fraud.

The sentence is the minimum allowable under federal sentencing guidelines. The judge pointed to Smith's remorse and her willingness to pay back the money.

Smith maintained checking accounts at a Citizens Bank of Maryland branch in Ellicott City and a Bank of Baltimore branch in Columbia, making daily trips to both.

Using personal checks drawn on the Bank of Baltimore account, she obtained cash, money orders and treasurer's checks from ** Citizens Bank. She would then deposit some of the money orders and checks back into the Bank of Baltimore account, allowing her personal check to clear but also "skimming" a small percentage of the money.

The scheme was repeated more than a thousand times in the five-year period, and by March 1990, she was making deposits of more than $80,000 a day. Citizens Bank became aware of a problem with Smith's account when the computer at Bank of Baltimore shut down for several hours and her personal checks were returned unpaid.

At the time of her arrest, Smith was employed by the Howard County Finance Department. She resigned from that job on March 31. No financial improprieties were found in the office.

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