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Published: Friday, 5/16/2003

Banker expected to plead guilty


An embezzlement case that forced the closure of a small northwest Ohio financial institution and led to a rebuke of banking examiners is expected to come to a close this morning.

Mark Steven Miller, former chief executive of the now-defunct Oakwood Deposit Co. in Paulding County, plans to plead guilty during an 8:30 a.m. appearance before Judge David Katz in U.S. District Court in Toledo, according to prosecutors and attorneys in the case. Mr. Miller previously entered a not guilty.

“He wants to put this matter behind him,” attorney Deborah Kovac Rump said of her 47-year-old client.

“He feels extremely remorseful. He wants to help the community and his family put this matter behind them.”

Mr. Miller, who was scheduled to be tried July 15 on charges of embezzlement and money-laundering, is accused of diverting $48 million from the bank. Much of the money went to a gambling-boat operation in South Carolina and Florida.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, pleading guilty would reduce his prison term because he would be accepting responsibility for his actions, said Thomas Karol, assistant U.S. attorney.

The crimes with which he is charged carry a fine of $1.5 million and a maximum prison sentence of 50 years. But the prosecutor said he expects Mr. Miller to receive less than that under the sentencing guidelines, which consider factors such as prior criminal record. The prosecutor was unable to provide a sentencing range.

The former bank executive, who has been free on a $1 million property bond, is not expected to be taken into custody until sentencing. That probably won't happen for three months, after completion of a personal background report.

The plea-change hearing comes a few weeks after Mr. Miller lost an attempt to get a confession and other evidence thrown out. Judge Katz rejected arguments by the Mr. Miller's attorneys that he wasn't given his Miranda rights early in the investigation.

Discovery of the thefts on Feb. 1, 2002 roiled the 850-person community of Oakwood.

Mr. Miller, a resident of the nearby town of Grover Hill, joined the institution shortly after high school graduation in 1973 and rose through the ranks. The 97-year-old bank had assets of $72 million.

After the thefts were discovered, he was arrested and the Oakwood bank and a branch in Grover Hill were shut by state banking regulators and taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The chief watchdog for the nation's central banking system, in a report late last year, said that federal and state examiners “missed obvious red flags” in Oakwood, and called on them to conduct more surprise inspections of small banks without advance notice to executives.

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