BANGOR, Maine — A Bucksport woman who admitted to embezzling nearly $3 million from a Maine bank and not reporting the stolen income on her tax returns was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to eight years and one month in federal prison.
Lynn M. Bowden, 62, also was sentenced to five years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby ordered Bowden to pay nearly $3 million in restitution to People’s United Bank and its insurers. She also was ordered to pay nearly $832,000 in back taxes — the amount owed on the stolen funds.
Bowden was taken into custody to begin serving her sentence immediately after she was sentenced.
The money stolen from the trust accounts of the 21 victims, many of whom are elderly, was repaid by the bank, according to court documents.
“I think it’s hard for most Maine people, who work hard for a living, to understand this crime,” Hornby said just before sentencing Bowden. “You used this money to provide a lavish lifestyle for yourself and your family. You didn’t earn. You stole it.”
Bowden spent the money on vacations out of state for her family, home repairs, home furnishing and personal items, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell, who recommended the sentence imposed.
Hornby rejected a motion made by defense attorney Daniel Pileggi of Ellsworth that the judge impose a lesser sentence due to Bowden’s health issues, which include heart and pulmonary problems.
The judge said that Bowden’s action called “for a strong sentence” to deter others from the similar thefts. Hornby also said that he wanted people with trust accounts to know that their funds would be protected.
Bowden apologized for her actions but could not explain them.
“In 2007, I started the bizarre behavior of transferring clients’ money to my personal accounts,” she told the judge. “I don’t know what prompted it, but it became a habit. I knew it was a huge breach of trust.”
Bowden said she was surprised when she learned she’d stolen nearly $3 million.
“I thought it was about $500,000,” she said.
Bowden also said that she is planning to sell her house and its contents to pay the restitution and back taxes.
In February, Bowden waived indictment and pleaded guilty to one count each of theft by a bank employee and making a false return, according to a previously published report.
Bowden worked at People’s United Bank from May 2004 to Oct. 26, 2012, when she was fired, according to the prosecution’s version of events to which she pleaded guilty. She served as a wealth management officer and managed more than 200 trust and investment management accounts during that time.
She worked at the Bangor branch, according to Valerie Carlson, first vice president for corporate communications in Bridgeport, Conn.
She came to the attention of bank managers in October 2012 when she tried to transfer $50,000 from a client’s account to her own. When a fellow bank employee questioned the transfer, Bowden said it was a mistake, the court document said. That led to an examination of other internal transfers made by Bowden.
Between April 4, 2005, and Sept. 26, 2012, Bowden made 108 deposits and transfers from customer accounts to her own totaling nearly $3 million, according to the prosecution version of events. She placed the funds first in her own account, then transferred smaller amounts to accounts she held jointly with family members.
“An employee in a position of trust deliberately circumvented established procedures,” Carlson said Tuesday. “We take our fiduciary responsibilities very seriously. We met with the affected clients as soon as we had information and provided them with the facts and full restitution.”
She faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of nearly $6 million on the theft charge and three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the tax charge. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, she faced between eight years and one month and 10 years and one month in federal prison.