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M&T Bank Ordered to Pay $560K from Laundering Drug Money

One Baltimore County branch failed to report transactions over $10,000, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said.

M&T Bank, 8200 block of Harford Road. (Credit: Google Maps)
M&T Bank, 8200 block of Harford Road. (Credit: Google Maps)
The U.S. District Court has ordered M&T Bank to forfeit more than a half million dollars in proceeds it says were from drug money laundered through the bank in the past several years.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar found that the bank failed to file reports on money that it handled between 2011 and 2013 involved in a money laundering scheme that resulted in the conviction of two individuals—a drug dealer and teller—earlier this year, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.

In the money laundering operation, Sabrina Nicole Fitts, 29, the head teller at the M&T Bank branch in the 8200 block of Harford Road, converted small bills to $100 bills for Deanna Bailey, 33, on at least eight occasions without filing mandatory reports, the statement said.

Bailey was part of a drug trafficking organization based in Maryland, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The drug ring moved 500 pounds of marijuana from the southwestern U.S. to Maryland, according to The Baltimore Sunwhich reported in a search of a west Baltimore apartment connected to Bailey, police found a handgun, 10 cell phones and digital scales.

During her visits to the M&T Bank branch on Harford Road, Bailey paid Fitts a 1 percent fee on transactions in which she made the exchange of bills without filing a currency transaction report, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Transactions ranged from $20,000 to $100,000, with most involving amounts of least $50,000, according to the statement.

Fitts admitted that she converted the bills without filing (or causing others at the bank to file) a currency transaction report, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which said this was against regulations.

"Financial institutions face penalties if they accept cash deposits without filing currency transaction reports," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said. "The reports allow law enforcement to trace cash deposits by criminals who try to avoid creating a paper trail."

Fitts was sentenced to a month in prison followed by eight months of home detention for failing to file currency transaction reports on suspected drug proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. She was also sentenced to 250 hours of community service and ordered to forfeit the $5,000 she was paid for converting the drug proceeds, the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Her employment at M&T Bank as head teller ended in May 2013, the statement said.

Bailey was sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiring to commit money laundering and ordered to forfeit $500,000, the statement said.

After sentencing the individuals, the U.S. government filed a civil action on Feb. 10, alleging that M&T Bank is required to forfeit the $560,000 that was transferred to the bank by Bailey in exchange for $100 bills, according to the statement.

On Tuesday, Judge Bredar ordered that the attorney general was authorized to seize the money, according to the default judgment and order of forfeiture.

The money was subject to forfeiture because M&T Bank failed to file currency transactions reports on bank transactions in amounts in excess of $10,000 as required by law, according to the complaint.
Elizabeth Janney June 18, 2014 at 05:24 PM
I inquired with the District Attorney's Office and will report back. On the official documents from the court, the address of the branch is listed as 8200 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21234.
Will June 18, 2014 at 08:16 PM
So this is a bank teller who was not smart enough to tell her drug dealer bud to go through the line a couple times to keep the transaction under the $10,000 total that requires the reports to be filed? Couldn't tell the other idiot to only hand in $9,999.00 at a time? Like the fella said, you can get plastic surgery if you're ugly, or a hair transplantt if you're bald, or fix pretty much anything about yourself, but you can't fix STUPID!
Kim Cooke June 19, 2014 at 08:12 AM
This is collusion throughout the financial corporation. A branch cannot disguise from HQ what it is doing. Not for two years. This is my bank (not my branch) and I find this sickening.
kathy de cicco June 19, 2014 at 08:22 AM
The banks can't be bothered with petty stuff like this. They are too busy trying to get you to open a branded credit card or sell you loans.
Polly June 19, 2014 at 08:51 AM
@ Will - to make the transactions under $10K to avoid the reporting requirements is an offense as well. It's called structuring to avoid the reporting. Trust me, this is one law "Bank Secrecy Act" that I know very well, as I was once responsible for making sure these procedures were in place and followed, assisted in the writing of the "policies and procedures" manual, trained bank personnel at all levels routinely, and testified in Federal court for cases involving money laundering & structuring. I'm sure M&T Bank will be doing a closer examination of transactions.

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