Originally created 08/13/02

Embezzler enters guilty plea



A former bank officer pleaded guilty Monday to embezzlement charges lodged after it was discovered she took more than $200,000 from customers' investment accounts.

Virginia Turnage Jenkins, 48, admitted in U.S. District Court that she committed four acts of embezzlement in the summers of 1999 and 2000 while working as an assistant vice president at First Union Bank. A sentencing date for Ms. Jenkins has not been set. Embezzlement by a bank employee carries a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine.

"Basically she was robbing Peter to pay Paul, your honor," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Little said Monday.

Ms. Jenkins started off by taking $18,151 from a client's investment account in July and August 1999, and about $100,000 in September 1999, the prosecutor said. Ms. Jenkins paid back the money by stealing from another client's account in June 2000, Ms. Little said.

FBI Special Agent Rebecca Harrison testified Monday that Ms. Jenkins also stole more than $20,000 in summer 2000 to pay off a personal loan.

Agent Harrison said that in February 2001, a relative of the first victim went to bank officials and Ms. Jenkins confessed and repaid the money she took.

The agent said Ms. Jenkins apparently used the money to pay off bills. Her 1999 divorce from former Richmond County sheriff's vice officer Stoney Turnage left Ms. Jenkins in financial ruin, defense attorney Edward Tolley said.

Mr. Turnage raised the suspicion of federal investigators this year when he initially claimed a $10,000 deposit to his bank account in April 1999 that came from his divorce settlement, according to court documents.

Mr. Turnage, a 25-year veteran officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant, pleaded guilty to extortion this summer. In the same federal courtroom where Ms. Jenkins pleaded guilty Monday, Mr. Turnage was sentenced in June to 18 months in prison.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.