Former Bank Employee Sentenced for Stealing $559,000 from Customer

by Mark Friedman  on Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 4:51 pm  

A former employee of First National Bank of Fort Smith was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison for embezzling $559,000 from an 89-year-old bank customer.

Mary Kay Newman, 45, of Fort Smith, also was sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and $9,260.23 in restitution, according to the news release from Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

Newman began working for the bank in 1989, and became acquainted with a customer, Ruby Pharis, who was about 90 when the embezzlement occurred.  

In 2009, Pharis bought two certificates of deposit that totaled $530,190. In January 2010, she renewed the certificates, which at that time had a combined value of $548,719.

In 2010, Pharis needed surgery and Newman stepped in and convinced Pharis to grant her power of attorney "so that her bills could be paid while she was incapacitated," the news release said. "Mrs. Pharis did not give Newman authority to make any other financial decisions."

But Newman did. She converted Pharis' CDs in to cashier's checks 2011 and developed a scheme to move the money through various accounts to obtain it.

"In late December 2011, Mrs. Pharis became concerned that she was not receiving her account statements from First National Bank," the news release said. "After an examination of her accounts, First National Bank discovered the transactions made by Newman."

Newman was fired on Dec. 29, 2011. She waived indictment and pleaded guilty in March.

"Not only did the defendant abuse her position of trust, but she also preyed upon one of the most vulnerable members of our community — an elderly widow — in a scheme devised for the sole purpose of benefiting herself," Eldridge said in the news release.



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