Zebra owner -- and wealth manager -- to get new set of stripes after conning clients

Ex-Wachovia employee sold banking product that didn't exist, pocketed the money, bought zebras, helicopter; sentenced to seven years in jail

Jun 3, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

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A former Wachovia Bank manager in Virginia who admitted to stealing $14.1 million from bank clients through a bogus wealth-management scheme was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Linda Speaks Tribby, 42, who pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in March, was sentenced today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Tribby used the funds to buy a helicopter, a luxury motor home, rural houses and property, and exotic animals, including two zebras, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady ordered Tribby to make full restitution to victims and forfeit property, funds held in bank accounts and the helicopter.

“Linda Tribby's stunning greed and extravagant life style drove her to steal more than $14 million,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.

Tribby, of Lovettsville, Virginia, was an employee of Wachovia, bought by Wells Fargo & Co. in 2008, and its predecessors for more than 25 years, according to prosecutors. Her last job was as a business-relationship manager developing client accounts in and around Loudoun County, prosecutors said.

From about December 2003 to January, Tribby sold some customers on a “wealth-management account product” that she said earned tax-free interest -- a product the bank didn't offer -- then transferred funds from their accounts into accounts that she controlled, prosecutors charged.

Tribby created fake balance statements for the customers and made periodic interest payments, prosecutors said.

She used the money for purchases including a home in West Virginia, a hunting cabin built on about 200 acres of land in New York, a lake house in New York, about 100 acres of property in Nevada, a luxury motor home and a Bell helicopter.

An internal investigation uncovered the fraud, and the bank is working to reimburse the affected customers, Aimee Worlsey, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, said at the time of Tribby's plea in March.

Tribby, who was born and raised in Loudoun County, has been in custody since she was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Jan. 23 after returning from a weeklong trip to Las Vegas and Phoenix with her boyfriend, according to a motion filed by prosecutors in the case.

Tribby had more than $30,000 in cash in a tote bag when she was arrested and was carrying handwritten notes in her purse addressed to her boyfriend, her husband from whom she is separated, her daughter and her parents admitting responsibility for the crime, apologizing and asking them to “take care of one another, to stay strong and to keep their faith in God,” according to the motion.

The government was able to locate about $5.5 million in bank accounts controlled by Tribby, although more than $8 million remains missing, the motion said.

--Bloomberg News--

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