Westbrook woman gets probation for stealing from ex-husband’s IRA

Posted April 24, 2012, at 5:13 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Westbrook woman who fraudulently obtained funds from her ex-husband’s retirement account after he refused her request for a $15,000 loan was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court to one year of probation.

Martha Collins, 45, also was ordered to pay nearly $29,000 in restitution. She waived indictment and pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud and identity theft.

Collins paid the restitution before sentencing, according to her attorney, Michael Whipple of Portland.

“Martha worked very hard to prove to the judge that she was an exemplary citizen leading up to this incident and that this was uncharacteristic,” he said Tuesday in an email. “Her remorse was very apparent throughout the process.”

Whipple said Collins was grateful that U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal placed her on probation and spared her jail time.

“She will spend the next year working on her emotional recovery and continue her ongoing efforts of caring for her elderly parents,” Whipple said.

Collins’ attorney said in his sentencing memorandum that she was facing foreclosure on her home in early July 2010 when she asked her ex-husband for the loan. He told her that he could not give her that much money, according to the prosecution version of events to which Collins pleaded guilty.

The ex-husband is identified by his initials in all court documents except Whipple’s sentencing memorandum.

Collins’ former husband proposed that she sell her motorcycle and cash out her Individual Retirement Account. He offered to give her the difference between that sum and the $15,000 Collins said she needed, according to court documents. Collins declined that offer.

Instead, she called a Massachusetts investment management firm where her ex-husband had his retirement accounts, according to the prosecution version of events. When the company told Collins she could not close out the accounts, she called back the next day and told an employee that her ex-husband was with her. A male, who is not named in court documents, posing as Collins’ ex-husband gave the employee the former husband’s Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address and said he wanted to close out the IRA accounts.

As a result of that phone call, the accounts were closed and approximately $29,000 was sent to a post office box Collins had set up. She admitted using the money for a mortgage payment, property taxes and car repairs, according to court documents.

Collins faced up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and up to five years in prison on the identity theft charge. In addition to prison time, she could have been ordered to pay fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

Her recommended sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines was between four and 10 months, which qualified her for probation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff said Tuesday.

Wolff recommended Collins be sentenced to three years of probation including four months of home detention.

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