By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service
A banker who once headed a merchant association in Oakland's Montclair
district was sentenced Monday to 12 years in state prison for stealing more than
$2 million from clients, many of whom were elderly.
Dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, Linda Sue Foss, 62, sobbed and dabbed at her eyes with tissue as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi handed down the sentence, which also calls for Foss to pay $2.4 million in restitution.
Foss had pleaded guilty in August to five counts of elder theft, two counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering involving 15 victims. She was arrested on May 10, and was initially charged with 20 felony counts.
Her attorney, Mark Vermeulen, said after Monday's hearing that Foss considered her clients to be friends and "is extremely sorry for what she did and wrote a heartfelt letter to the court saying she realizes the harm she's done to her friends."
He said Foss "is very emotional, and being in custody has had a huge impact on her."
Authorities launched an investigation of Foss, who was president of the Montclair Village Association, earlier this year after U.S. Bank and First Republic Bank representatives said they were looking into the possibility that money had been stolen from at least five elderly customers.
Foss was fired in March by the U.S. Bank branch on Mountain Boulevard in Oakland -- where she had been hired in 1983 and eventually became branch manager -- but she was then immediately hired by First Republic Bank to become a branch manager there, Alameda County District Attorney Inspector Ron Miller said in a probable cause statement.
First Republic Bank's investigators then discovered that shortly after she began her new job, she took more funds from a client at their institution, Miller said.
Although Foss agreed to a 12-year prison term when she pleaded guilty on Aug. 8, Vermeulen argued Monday that she should get a lighter sentence because he later found out that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office had agreed to a shorter sentence in a separate but similar case.
Vermuelen said that if the judge who approved Foss' plea bargain had known about the other case, "We would have had a different result" in Foss' case.
But Judge Delucchi, who didn't handle the plea bargain, said he didn't find Vermuelen's argument persuasive and said it was "purely speculative" that Foss would have received a lighter sentence.
Delucchi said "I'm not offended" by Foss' sentence but that he is offended by the shorter sentence given to the defendant in the other case cited by Vermeulen.
The judge said he believes a lengthy sentence is appropriate for Foss because there were many victims and most of them were elderly.
He cited "the initial shock and stress of the victims losing their savings and believing that they can't start over at this stage of their lives."
Vermeulen said the victims have had all their money repaid by the banks, and the restitution to be paid by Foss will reimburse the banks for those funds.
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