COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – From 1979 to 2005, Gail Baker Page worked to rise to the top of the local banking industry becoming Vice President of CB&T in Columbus.
Somewhere along the line, prosecutors say Baker Page abused her position, creating a fraudulent account with another bank and stealing money from a longtime elderly customer.
She was sentenced in federal court in Columbus Thursday morning on a bank fraud charge.
Prosecutors say she devised a scheme to defraud CB&T and Southtrust Bank moving money in and out of account using a forged signature card.
Both her name and the widowed customer's name were listed on the joint account, according to the government.
In court, the prosecutor said she hid the movement of money from her high-ranking position- what they call a "continuing offense" from November of 2004 to September of 2005.
Altogether, CB&T told the court their losses totaled more than $159,000.
Authorities say $18,000 was spent at department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillards. Some was used to pay off debts and in court documents, Baker Page stated she doesn't remember what she did with more than $100,000 she withdrew in cash from the account.
Even though she pled guilty in a plea agreement with the government last summer, District Court Judge Clay Land said he is unclear on how the case is a federal offense of bank fraud and not a state theft charge.
The Judge said her case is different than other bank fraud cases because he authority on the account was ambiguous.
Judge Land said he considered the unusual circumstances involved in the case and her history, reducing Baker Page's sentence to eight months and calling her a trailblazer for African American women in the banking industry.
Baker Page is out on bond and avoided our cameras after Thursday's proceedings but we caught up with her attorneys Richard Hagler and Stacey Jackson.
"We're very pleased with the consideration the court gave to us. The court listened to the objections we filed with the presentence report, ruled in our favor and in addition, took into account Gail's long service to this community and her outstanding character and we think that it was appropriate that he made the downward departure and that he reached a just conclusion in disposing of the case," Hagler told WTVM.
In addition to her eight month prison sentence, Gail Baker Page must also pay $144,000 in restitution.
Her prison sentence will be followed by three years of probation.
Baker Page will voluntarily surrender herself to the Bureau of Prisons.
Authorities tell WTVM it typically takes a month before a defendant receives a date to turn themselves in.