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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

Bank-failure sentencing tomorrow

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

Mark Steven Miller, who pleaded guilty to embezzling $48 million from the failed Oakwood Deposit Bank Co. in Paulding County, will be sentenced at 9 a.m. tomorrow in federal court in Toledo.

Federal probation authorities solicited comments from about 300 victims of the fraud that brought down the 97-year-old bank in Oakwood and its branch in nearby Grover Hill early last year. But it's uncertain whether, or how much, their remarks will influence the sentence to be imposed by U.S. District Judge David Katz.

Among victims receiving letters from probation authorities was Gary Adkins, chief executive of Paulding County Hospital, which had nearly $1.4 million deposited with the Oakwood Bank; most of that was uninsured because it exceeded the usual $100,000 FDIC limit.

The hospital is still owed about $790,000, Mr. Adkins said yesterday.

“In a nutshell, what I told them is that I'm confident Judge Katz knows how to do his job, but we just wanted to make sure we impressed upon him the damage done in our community.”

A number of other institutions suffered at least temporary loss of funds, including the village of Oakwood and some school districts.

Miller, 48, pleaded guilty in May to embezzlement and money-laundering charges that could have drawn sentences totaling 50 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million. But because of his cooperation, federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term ranging from 11 years and 3 months up to 14 years. Whether his prison term would begin immediately was unclear.

The former chief executive of the Oakwood bank was arrested by the FBI Jan. 31, 2002, after a bank examination found irregularities. Miller confessed to stealing money by selling certificates of deposit over the Internet and manipulating bank records so he could divert funds to Stardancer Casino Inc., which operated gambling ships in South Carolina and Florida.

The next day, federal and state regulators closed the bank, which, within days, was sold to State Bank and Trust Co., a unit of Defiance-based Rurban Financial Corp.

Miller has been free on a $1 million property bond, mostly posted by family members in northwest Ohio, for the last 18 months.

A number of spectators are expected in court tomorrow, including representatives from the agencies that investigated the crime, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

A total of 69 depositors had $4.3 million that was uninsured, but nearly 40 percent of that money has been returned to them by the FDIC, said David Barr, a spokesman for the agency in Washington. But the 165 bank shareholders who held stock valued at $6.4 million at the time of the Oakwood failure stand to lose their investment.

Among them are Jack Shisler, a farmer outside Oakwood, and his wife, Jackie. “My husband wouldn't put anything down [for sentencing purposes], but I did,” said Mrs. Shisler.

“I just thought what [Miller] did was terrible. I don't think 13 to 14 years is long enough. I hope he gets a good long time to think about what he did ... I basically told them that I thought Steve did irreparable harm to the community and the area. He ruined a perfectly good small bank. It just isn't the same.

“It's really sad what he did. The saddest part was everybody trusted and liked Steve.”



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