Working as a manager at a Wachovia Bank branch in Purcellville, Linda Speaks Tribby managed to steal more than $14 million from several of her customers, then spent it on houses, land, exotic animals, vehicles for both her husband and her boyfriend and trips to Las Vegas. She got caught in January, pleaded guilty in March, and my first look at this sad-and-hilarious case was published here in April.
On Friday, Tribby is due to be sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, causing a raft of new documents to be filed in recent days, including briefs from the attorneys, dozens of character reference letters from Tribby’s friends and family, and the real gem: a 14-page handwritten letter from Tribby to the judge, frequently declaring her remorse and her deep Christian faith. What Would Jesus Do with $14 million, feed the poor or buy lots of toys and head to Las Vegas? We know what Linda Tribby decided.
Federal prosecutors dropped a number of other tidbits into their sentencing brief. “Armed with a bottomless checking account of other people’s assets,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jasmine Yoon wrote, Tribby bought a house in West Virginia for her daughter, a lake house in New York state, land in New York on which she built a hunting cabin and 100 acres of land in Nevada, in addition to houses she already owned in Lovettsville and Waterford.
But there’s more. Tribby, 42, had four Redskins club seat season tickets, traveled to casinos and dropped thousands each time, paid for a group of 15 people to fly to Las Vegas, and gave each one $500 in spending money, Yoon wrote. She bought a 1947 Bell helicopter, a luxury RV, antique cars, a pontoon boat, and built an exotic herd of zebras, birds, turtles, horses, pigs and sheep on her property.
Along the way, she became a heavy drinker, a regular pot smoker, a compulsive gambler and picked up a devoted boyfriend in addition to her husband, court records state.
In her letter, Tribby explains it all.
First, a little back story. Tribby had worked at Wachovia and its prior incarnations for 25 years. (It’s now Wells Fargo.) Beginning in 2001, various family members began having serious health issues, and the financial burdens on Tribby mounted. She says she inquired with Wachovia about declaring bankruptcy, but the bank said that would be the end of her job.
So starting in 2003, having apparently mortgaged her home and retirement accounts to the hilt and living a Job-like existence, she devised a plan to loot the accounts of her wealthier customers. Prosecutors have said four people were convinced to place funds into interest-bearing tax-free accounts, though court records show that one victim actually provided 96 percent of Tribby’s eventual mad money.
Tribby would type up phony statements indicating that the money was deposited and gaining interest. When one of the clients noticed a discrepancy, prosecutors noted, Tribby typed up a phony letter from a non-existent person apologizing for the problem, and correcting it.
In her letter, Tribby tells U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady that she began this theft to pay her various relatives’ medical bills, and that she bought things in order to raise money to repay the looted accounts.
“I bought Redskin tickets to take my bank clients and myself, to increase my networking and referrals for business,” Tribby wrote. “I bought exotic animals to breed to resell. I purchased a helicopter to lease out to make money.”
She apologizes to her victims, particularly “my dear friend and prayer partner [X], for all the pain and suffering I have caused her.”
You pray with someone AND you steal their money? Wow.
But along the way, “I have since been blessed with my soulmate,” Scott Whitmore, “whom [sic] gives me all the love, encouragement and support and whom [sic] shares my great faith in the good Lord.”
At this point, other than Thou Shalt Not Murder, I’m not sure what commandments she hasn’t broken.
Whitmore also wrote a letter to the judge, saying that “when this ordeal is over with, I will make her my wife. I don’t have any colorful stories of her helping me or people close to me,” he helpfully adds. Tribby rented a house for Whitmore in Brunswick, Md., the “Love Shack,” and her defense lawyers’ brief is quick to point out that her legal address is the Brunswick Love Shack, not the Lovettsville home she shared with her current husband and parents.
In her guilty plea, Tribby agreed to forfeit virtually all of the various property she purchased, as well as the $5.7 million federal agents recovered after they arrested her on a plane coming back from Vegas with Whitmore. (Like
Judas Peter, Tribby denied her true love. While sitting next to Whitmore, federal agents asked if she was with anyone. She said no.)
Tribby also agreed to make $8.1 million in restitution, and prosecutors have suggested that she is hiding some of that somewhere. Her lawyers said she used the stolen money “to feed a compulsive gambling habit in a fruitless effort to win back the money she stole.” The lawyers said Wells Fargo has repaid the defrauded customers, which means the bank is now the official victim in the case.
There are also 80 pages of letters to the judge from Tribby’s family and friends, with insights such as “I believe Linda would never break the law” and “not too many years ago she was voted to be one of the 5 people in Kiss-a-Pig contest to make money for the Loudoun County fair.” For some reason, there is a picture of that in The Washington Post photo archives:
Judges are accustomed to letters from defendants’ well-wishers (“My Daddy didn’t MEAN to shoot those 19 people” or “my co-worker will never again sell 46 kilos of cocaine”) and O’Grady likely will give them little weight.
So now what?
On Friday morning, O’Grady’s courtroom may well be full, the pews occupied by the Tribby faithful, some likely weeping. Tribby will stand and make a teary speech, undoubtedly invoking the Creator and His wisdom.
And then O’Grady will have a small decision to make.
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, Tribby faces a sentence of eight to 10 years (97 to 121 months). The guidelines are voluntary, but most judges follow them.
Tribby’s lawyers are asking for a reduction in the guidelines for “acceptance of responsibility,” specifically the 14-page letter and Friday’s spontaneous show of remorse. That would reduce Tribby’s guideline range
to 70 to 87 months, and federal prosecutors said they would not oppose that reduction. (See UPDATE below.)
Tribby’s lawyer, public defender Kenneth Troccoli, argued that even 70 months is too harsh, and that Congress has irrationally ratcheted up the sentencing for white-collar crimes in recent years. As recently as 2000, the possible penalty for stealing between $10 million and $20 million was 46 to 57 months. Troccoli will argue for 70 months and to place Tribby in the federal women’s prison in West Virginia, so she can be close to her family.
So the judge must decide three things: First, whether Tribby has accepted responsibility, which would lower the recommended sentencing range; second, to use the guidelines at all; and, finally, whether or not to let Tribby stay close to home.
UPDATE: This item incorrectly stated that Tribby’s guideline range would be reduced from eight to 10 years to 70 to 87 months if she were granted an “acceptance of responsibility” reduction. Prosecutor Yoon told me after today’s sentencing that the “acceptance” reduction was already calculated into the guidelines, and that her range was still 97 to 121 months, though her sentencing brief would seem to indicate otherwise.
And then Judge O’Grady gave her 84 months, less than the guideline range. He also recommended her for prison in West Virginia. A full story will be appearing on this shortly.