A former Citigroup Inc. sales assistant who was accused of stealing about $800,000 from clients has pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to six counts of mail fraud.

Tamara Lanz Moon, 44, of Fremont and formerly of Redwood City, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Tuesday. She will be sentenced by Alsup on Jan. 17 and faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison for each fraud count.

Moon worked as a sales assistant, executing trades for brokers and handling clients’ paperwork, for Citigroup’s Palo Alto branch from 1996 until she was fired in March 2008.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Moon admitted during the guilty plea that she stole money from clients’ accounts by forging customers’ signatures and making unauthorized trades.

Moon admitted spending the stolen funds on mortgage payments, credit card bills and real estate investments, Haag said.

An indictment issued by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on June 23 alleged that Moon stole more than $800,000 from more than 20 clients.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an independent, nongovernmental agency based in Washington, D.C., said in a statement on Aug. 9 that the total amount Moon stole was $749,978, taken from 22 customers.

The agency, known as FINRA, made the statement at the same time that it fined New York-based Citigroup $500,000 for failing to supervise Moon.

FINRA said in the statement, “Citigroup failed to detect or investigate a series of ‘red flags’ that upon further inquiry should have alerted the firm to Moon’s improper use of customer funds.”

The agency said Moon targeted elderly, ill or otherwise vulnerable customers, including elderly widows, a senior with Parkinson’s disease and her own father.

In 2009, FINRA barred Moon from working in the securities industry. The agency said at the time that Citigroup had compensated the victims for their losses.

The six counts to which Moon pleaded guilty concerned checks she mailed in 2007 and 2008 in connection with the fraud scheme.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!