Former banker sentenced to 21 months War record contributed to leniency in fraud case

January 13, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Showing leniency based partly on the defendant's heroic Vietnam service record, a federal judge sentenced a former bank president to 21 months in prison yesterday for a $5 million fraud scheme.

Mark Milton Feinberg, 48, whose helicopter rescue missions during the Vietnam conflict earned him 31 Air Medals, could have been sentenced to more than 6 1/2 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines for his bank fraud convictions in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

But Judge Marvin J. Garbis granted him the lighter sentence after considering his military service and the circumstances of the crime, which Feinberg's lawyer claims brought him no profit.

"The amount of the loss grossly overstates his culpability," said the lawyer, Robert C. Bonsib. "Throughout it all, he always intended to make the banks whole again. He hoped he would have a financial turnaround."

Feinberg once headed Consumer First Mortgage Inc. in Columbia, which at its height was a $600-million-a-year business. But the company began to falter and Feinberg began inflating the bank's financial statements to other banks and the federal government, prosecutors said.

Feinberg inflated the statements to keep lines of credit flowing -- to his company, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale, who said she is considering an appeal of the judge's sentence.

Sale said Feinberg did not try to pump money into the failing business to make the banks whole again, as Bonsib suggested, VTC but to ensure that the much-needed lines of credit remained available to him and others in the company.

"It was a very nice lifestyle for all concerned," Sale said. "That was why he made the payments. It was for the purpose of keeping the business going."

When the lines of credit were finally cut off in 1996, Consumer First was forced to fold its 10 offices in Maryland and Virginia.

The firm was in the midst of handling more than 600 home loans. Other mortgage companies stepped in to take over the transactions and allowed the home purchases to move ahead.

Feinberg told the judge before sentencing that he accepted responsibility for the crime and said he and his family have been suffering the consequences of his bad mistakes in judgment. About a dozen of his relatives, including his wife and mother, attended yesterday's hearing.

During the Vietnam War, Feinberg flew numerous life-threatening missions over the jungle to rescue wounded or trapped soldiers, according to military records filed in the criminal case. In addition to the Silver and Bronze stars, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism" for a November 1970 mission over Dak To, the records said.

In the Dak To mission, Feinberg rescued five U.S. soldiers trapped behind enemy lines while enemy forces fired B-40 rockets and machine guns at his helicopter, the records said.

Feinberg received the award at the Pentagon after flying the soldiers to safety in his damaged helicopter, military records said.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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