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Sentencing looms for two employees who drained banks

TAMPA — If a federal judge sends Susan Emily Jones to prison today, her minister will know immediately. He expects to be in court to lend support.

"There is no finer person than Susan Jones," Jeffery Singletary wrote to the judge.

Jones, 50, has been supportive in her own way. She illegally ordered $95,795 in payments from Citicorp Services Inc. to the Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, where Singletary is senior pastor, authorities say.

The gifts, dispensed over several years, are among $824,301 in misappropriations acknowledged by Jones — a former Citicorp vice president — in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

The Lutz woman is one of two former bank workers scheduled to be sentenced in federal court today for availing themselves of an institution's riches while they were on the payroll. Both have entered guilty pleas.

The other is Michelle Guy of Valrico, a former HSBC secretary who ordered herself $2.2 million in employee reward gift cards.

Guy's shopping sprees led attorney Richard Escobar to raise a defense of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"What rational person buys 20 pairs of similar female sunglasses?" he wrote in a motion Monday asking for a reduced sentence. "What rational person buys 20 almost identical Vera Bradley bags?"

The characterization of Jones went the other direction.

She lived a modest lifestyle, defense attorney Paul Sisco stated in a recent court memo. She spent some of the money for "cosmetic" purposes, he said, and used some of it for air travel.

But the spending often took the form of largesse. In addition to supporting her church, he said, she contributed to groups such as the Gulf Coast Youth Choir and the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies.

Checks arrived in the bank's name, not hers, Sisco wrote.

She used $353,000 of Citicorp's money to buy 10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers club seats, for 10 games, for six seasons, he wrote. She attended, but also gave tickets away, often to bank employees.

Jones had access to a $12 million fund because she managed the winding down of a traveler's check service, court records state.

The daughter of a steel worker and secretary, she worked for the banking institution for more than two decades.

Singletary wrote that he has known her 17 years and that she had gone on mission trips.

"She is always trying to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and comfort the hurting," he wrote.

In his letter, Singletary used these words to describe Jones: Loyal. Dependable. Trustworthy. Honorable. Dear. Incredible. Gifted. Intelligent. Resourceful. Giving. A model woman. Strong moral character.

He wrote 25 sentences in the note to the judge. Only one sentence gave a nod to the matter before Jones: "She is not perfect but there was only One that was."

Contacted Monday by the Tampa Bay Times, Singletary said he doesn't know enough about the criminal case to discuss it.

Asked whether the church will give back the money, he said that would be up to the operating committee.

"I've lived long enough to know that everything you think is clear is not clear and time tells," he said. "I have not tried to be Sherlock Holmes. That's not what preachers do."

Jones pleaded guilty in January to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence.

Guy pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and a separate charge of mail fraud. Each carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Sentencing looms for two employees who drained banks 06/17/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 11:58pm]
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