Monday, June 23, 2014


Buffalo, New York-based M & T Bank, has been ordered by a Federal Judge to forfeit $560,000, representing the amount of drug profits reportedly laundered through one of the bank's Maryland branches. Additionally, approval of a proposed purchase of a New Jersey savings & loan has been delayed. Reports in local media state that the bank has incurred $60m in new costs, for compliance staff and AML programs.

What is most disturbing about the case is the fact that Sabrina Fitts, then the bank's head teller at the branch, has received only a nominal sentence for exchanging small denomination drug proceeds for one hundred dollar bills for a drug trafficking organization. Her total sentence:

(1) One month of incarceration.
(2) Eight months of home confinement (house arrest).
(3) Two years of Supervised Release, the Federal system's post-prison supervision program.
(4) Forfeiture of $5000, the approximate amount of money that she was paid by a representative of the traffickers.
(5) A $100 fine.

The money laundering charges brought against her were dropped, and she was allowed to plead to a single count of Failure to File Currency Transaction Reports (CTR). I fully understand that she was cooperating with law enforcement, as several of the pleading in the court file are sealed, and unavailable to the public, but as the head teller, she should be held to a higher standard than a minor bank employee.

While there may be mitigating circumstances here, Her sentence sends the wrong message to the financial community: that, if caught, you will only suffer a minor inconvenience, provided that you cooperate with the authorities. Future prospective employers, when seeing what she pled guilty to, may very well dismiss the seriousness of the case as simple negligence, especially after the passage of time. Please, let the punishment fit the crime.

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