Bank embezzler from Warren appealing sentence as too harsh

Posted Aug. 09, 2011, at 10:24 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A former Camden National Bank loan officer who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $600,000 from clients is appealing her 33-month sentence, saying it is “too harsh for someone living with a mental illness.”

Christina Torres-York, 40, of Warren pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced in federal court in Portland in June by Judge D. Brock Hornby. In addition to prison time, she also must pay back $625,000 that she stole from customers. She did not appeal the fines, just the prison time. She was scheduled to begin serving her time by July 29, but it could not be determined Tuesday whether she was in prison or remained free pending the result of the appeal.

“I have a significant mental illness which has impaired my judgment over the last several years. Again, I accept responsibility for my poor choices, but I believe the judge should have been made aware of my disease,” Torres-York wrote in her appeal.

Torres-York wrote that she is bipolar and that her attorney Hilary Billings told her not to say so in court. Her bipolar disorder caused manic, irrational thinking, she wrote.

Her mental illness allows her and her family to receive $1,850 monthly in disability checks, which make up half her family’s income, she wrote. She added that the disability payments would stop when she was in prison and that without her income, her family would suffer. She also argued that she could more quickly make restitution payments if she was not imprisoned.

Her former attorney, Billings, refused to comment on the specifics of the allegations against him in her appeal, but did say he wishes Torres-York the best.

“I found Christina to be a very warm-hearted, family-oriented woman and she played a pivotal role in her family and I think she expected to have her mental health issues play a larger role in her sentencing than were weighed by the judge. I wish her the best of luck because she’s served the community up there very well for a very long time before the events in this case,” he said.

Court documents said that Torres-York worked at the Waldoboro branch of Camden National Bank and had access to customers’ lines of credit. The company said Torres-York made $749,402 in unauthorized withdrawals from five customers’ lines of credit in the span of at least two years — from 2007 to October 2009. Torres-York transferred the money she took from the customers’ lines of credit to at least eight people, including herself, according to documents.

Torres-York was fired from the bank in October 2009, immediately after the bank discovered the thefts, according to the affidavit of Danny Swindler, the company’s vice president.

Days after she was fired, an employee found a letter of confession that Torres-York wrote in a night depository box, according to Swindler’s affidavit. That letter was not made public.

But Swindler referred to it in his affidavit: “In the letter, Defendant Torres-York confessed that she ‘used several lines of credit’ and that she was ‘terribly sorry for the embarrassment [she] caused for Camden National Bank and [her] family.’”

Swindler added that the letter said, “Please take this from my 401(k) so that everything is even,” and, “I’m so sorry it became a mess. I will not be in at 8, as I can not hold up my head any longer, ashamed at what has happened and what I have done to so many people that trusted me.”

Torres-York will pay $595,308 to Camden National and $29,705 to Maine Contractors and Builders Alliance Inc., a nonprofit organization for which she volunteered as treasurer and from which she also stole money.

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