A former Merrill Lynch advisor and private banker was sentenced this morning to one day in jail, six months of home confinement and three years of federal probation for embezzling more than $118,000 from the bank accounts of Bank of America customers. She was also ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.
Tammy Peterson conducted a series of unauthorized wire transfers, moving money from multiple customers' bank accounts into accounts belonging to her father and other relatives, while working for Merrill Lynch in Newport News, Va. Two of the six wire transfers were for $48,689, with the others being either for $5,000 or $5,523. The transfers occurred from January to June 2014, according to court documents.
Peterson pleaded guilty in September to count one criminal charges of theft, embezzlement or misapplication by a bank officer or employee in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Peterson's misdeeds went undetected for nearly a year, even after one of the customers complained about a wire transfer in April 2014. Peterson claimed that the transfer had been made in error and the funds were returned to the customer.
A second complaint from another customer in November 2014 finally triggered an internal investigation by Bank of America, which led to Peterson's undoing. She admitted to wiring money from client accounts and agreed to pay back the funds, liquidating her 401(k) account and reversing transfers to do so. Petersen claimed that she made the transfers because of a delay in getting life insurance money from her grandmother who passed away in 2013, according to court filings.
Petersen was dismissed from Merrill Lynch in November 2014 — around the time the second complaint surfaced—but the dismissal was due to a workforce reduction, court papers say.
Peterson was barred from the industry by FINRA in March 2015. Two months later, she turned herself in to the FBI for a voluntary interview.
"I think it was fair," Petersen's attorney, Shawn Cline of Hampton, Va., said of her sentence. "The sentence of the judge is a reflection of the severity of the offense weighed against her contrition and her acceptance of responsibility."
Brian Samuels, the assistant United States attorney who prosecuted Petersen, declined to comment.
Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Merrill Lynch, also declined to comment.
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