Date set for ex-teller sentencing for theft|[8/30/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A sentencing date of Dec. 4 has been set in the embezzlement case against a former teller at Trustmark National Bank’s main Vicksburg branch.

Astrid Warnock, 51, of Utica pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Jackson to embezzling at least $1 million from the bank’s vault from January 2002 to March 2, 2006. Warnock worked as the head teller at the branch at Washington and Clay streets during part of that time.

Warnock entered the plea before U.S. District Judge David Bramlette and will appear before Bramlette again at sentencing. The maximum sentence Warnock faces for embezzling from a bank is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

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The case against Warnock states she took the money in $10,000 increments and created false debit and credit tickets to disguise the embezzlement, a pattern that continued because the tickets were not forwarded to proper authorities at the bank. The theft was not discovered by the bank until March.

&#8220She gambled it away and used it to buy cars for herself and her kids. She also used it to pay for a new house,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Eldridge said, adding that &#8220a whole bunch of it” was used in relation to a gambling habit at Vicksburg’s four casinos.

Officials inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office have said the amount taken is believed to be the largest ever handled by the Jackson federal court system.

While Warnock has not disputed the government’s account of how she embezzled the money, some disagreement remains on the amount of money taken over the four-year period.

Warnock claims $1.1 million was taken, while Eldridge said the total is $1.3 million.

&#8220We will try to seek some of the money through restitution,” Eldridge said.

Warnock has declined comment on the case since she was charged in June.

&#8220We take any instance of fraud or loss seriously. No customer accounts were affected or at risk by what was a sophisticated manipulation of internal accounts. This perpetration was identified by Trustmark associates and appropriate law enforcement officials were immediately notified,” Trustmark general counsel Harris Collier said in a statement.

&#8220We appreciate and continue to work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address this matter,” Collier said.