money.jpgA former Citigroup Inc. sales assistant who stole $800,000 from the financial firm’s clients in Palo Alto has been sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to one year and 10 months in prison.

Tamara Lanz Moon, 44, of Fremont, worked as a sales assistant, executing trades for brokers and handling clients’ paperwork in Citigroup’s Palo Alto branch from 1996 until she was fired in March 2008.

In October, she pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Alsup to six counts of mail fraud, admitting that she stole money from clients’ accounts by forging their signatures and making unauthorized trades.

Prosecutors said in court filings that she stole a total of $800,000 from more than 20 customers and spent the stolen funds on mortgage payments, credit card bills and real estate investments.

Moon was given the prison sentence by Alsup on Tuesday. The judge also ordered her to pay $416,770 in remaining restitution to Citigroup. Moon previously paid $384,478 in restitution to the company after the thefts were discovered.

The prison sentence was a middle ground between a defense request for a term of one year and four months in a halfway house and home detention and prosecutors’ bid for two years and nine months in prison.

Defense attorney Charles Smith said in a sentencing brief that Moon is remorseful and that she admits she embezzled the money to finance an upscale way of life.

“She stole to attempt to support a lifestyle that many enjoy in Silicon Valley,” Smith wrote.
Moon was ordered to surrender to begin serving her sentence on June 18.

Last year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an independent, nongovernmental agency, fined New York-based Citigroup $500,000 for failing to supervise Moon properly and failing to detect a series of “red flags” that should have alerted managers to the fraud.

The agency said Moon targeted elderly, ill or otherwise vulnerable customers, including elderly widows, a senior citizen with Parkinson’s disease and her own father.
Citigroup compensated the victims for their losses, the agency said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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