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Former Andrew Johnson Bank employee sentenced for embezzlement

Matthew Lane • Jan 31, 2007 at 8:27 AM

GREENEVILLE - A Greeneville woman who embezzled nearly $40,000 from a local bank received a two-day prison sentence on Monday.

Sonia Annette Tanner was sentenced to two days in prison and five years probation in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. Tanner was also ordered to pay $39,600 in restitution.

Tanner faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Prosecutors suggested a four-month prison sentence, according to a sentencing memorandum.

Tanner pleaded guilty in August 2006 to one count of making a false entry in the books and records of a federally insured bank.

According to court records, Tanner worked at the Andrew Johnson Bank in Greeneville from October 2001 to October 2005, during which time she worked as a part-time teller, then a full-time employee in the loan department, and eventually in the fixed-rate mortgage department.

Prosecutors say in September 2004 Tanner created a loan account in the bank computer system in the name of Charlie Fox - a friend of hers - and a line of credit of $40,000. Fox did not know a loan had been created in his name and did not authorize any such loan.

Court records state Tanner then began to draw against the fraudulent loan over the next four months, totally $39,600. Tanner would transfer the money to Fox's savings account then transfer the money to her personal checking and savings account or into a savings account in the name of one of her children.

"The bank's computer system shows that Tanner accessed the loan account ... (on) 66 occasions to maintain or make changes to the account," court records state.

Prosecutors say Tanner made nominal payments to the account to prevent the account from appearing on the bank's list of past-due accounts.

In September 2005 - one year after the fake loan was created - bank officials discovered Tanner's activities. During an interview with the FBI in June 2006, Tanner admitted to creating the false loan in Fox's name and expressed remorse for her actions.

Nikki Pierce, with the Federal Defender Services and Tanner's attorney, filed a sentencing memorandum on behalf of her client. Pierce wrote that a day has not passed that Tanner has not regretted her actions.

"Tanner's wrongful acts were made at a time in her life when medical bills, as well as other bills, had amassed to the point she made hugely wrong choices in an effort to make the situation better," Pierce wrote.

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