Bank teller to serve 5 years for embezzling $1 million

Judge rejects claims cash was spent gambling

May 17, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A federal judge sentenced the former head teller of a Pikesville bank branch yesterday to five years in prison for taking more than $1 million from the bank's vault, money she spent on a new house, cars, parties and jewelry.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz rejected Marian D. Turner's claims that she was a compulsive gambler and that money for the lavish spending spree described by prosecutors came from her husband's illegal activities, including drug dealing.

"She stole money and she lied about it, and her life was not out of control," Motz said from the bench. "This is not a hard case."

Turner, 39, of Woodstock pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Federal authorities say that from July 1998 through 1999, she took nearly $1.1 million from the vault at the First Union branch in Pikesville by creating "phantom cash shipments" so the vault would appear balanced.

As head teller, Turner was the only worker at the branch who could enter the vault alone. The missing money was discovered during a routine audit in December 1999.

Federal prosecutors argued that Turner, who earned $25,000 a year, used much of the stolen money to build a sprawling home in western Baltimore County valued at nearly $450,000.

Court records showed that Turner also bought a Toyota 4Runner and Mercedes-Benz during that time, spent $21,000 on drapes, $30,000 on jewelry, made loans to family members and threw an elaborate seated dinner party at Martin's West banquet hall that cost more than $18,000.

Turner and her attorneys had sought a lesser sentence by arguing that she suffered from a compulsive gambling problem, but prosecutors said that going to casinos was just part of the high life Turner enjoyed while she embezzled money from the bank.

"This is simply not a picture of a person who could not control themselves when it came to gambling," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin said. "She made clear decisions about when she would spend money on gambling and when she would spend it on drapes or whatever."

Defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell of Baltimore said that Turner had not lied when she told investigators the money was spent on gambling, arguing that money for the new things came from the illegal activities of her husband, Joseph Turner Jr.

But Motz said the notion that Joseph Turner Jr., a disabled longshoreman with a history of debt to the Internal Revenue Service, bankrolled the spending defied logic.

Turner made a short, quiet apology yesterday. "I'm sorry that this happened," she said. Motz also ordered Turner to pay full restitution to the bank: $1,079,500.

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