Former Va. Wachovia employee pleads to $14M fraud

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2011 4:33 PM
Former Va. Wachovia employee pleads to $14M fraud

A former employee at a Virginia branch of Wachovia Bank pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $14 million from her clients' accounts and using the money to buy a lake house in New York, a luxury motor home and a helicopter, among other things.

Linda Tribby, 50, of Lovettsville, Va., faces up to 30 years in prison after pleading to a single count of bank fraud in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

According to court documents, Tribby worked as a "relationship manager" at Wachovia's bank in Purcellville, providing service to small business clients.

The scheme began back in 2003, when Tribby told some of her clients that she could set up special accounts that would provide tax-free interest. In reality, those accounts never existed and Tribby diverted the funds to accounts she controlled.

To cover up the thefts, she prepared account statements for her clients purporting to show that their money was safely tucked away. She even sent periodic interest payments back to her clients.

Prosecutors have said their investigation is continuing but they have so far identified four individuals and one institutional customers that were swindled out of $14.2 million.

Wachovia, now a part of Wells Fargo Bank, is reimbursing the clients for the lost funds.

As part of the plea, Tribby will be required to forfeit money and property she obtained. The government froze a variety of bank accounts totaling $5.5 million. A long list of real and personal property is also subject to forfeiture, including about 20 cars and trucks, property in Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Nevada, a pontoon boat and the helicopter, a 1947 Bell 47 model.

Bank spokeswoman Aimee Worsley said the fraud was uncovered by the bank and reported to authorities.

Tribby was arrested Jan. 23 at Dulles International Airport, returning from a trip to Las Vegas where authorities found her with $37,000 cash in a carry-on bag.

The bank said in a statement Friday, "We're pleased that this matter, which was an isolated case involving one former team member, has been resolved."

Tribby's attorney, federal public defender Ken Troccoli, declined comment Friday.