Borough woman sentenced to 8 ½ years for bank fraud

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BRIDGEPORT — Susan Curtis, a Naugatuck woman who worked with her husband and ex-husband to defraud Webster Bank out of $6.2 million, was sentenced to eight and half years in prison Thursday in federal court.

Before the sentence was read, Curtis, 50, wept from the moment she stood to read a statement to Judge Janet Hall and was overtaken by sobs while speaking of the shame she caused her family.

“I lied, cheated, stole and lived a life devoid of any redeeming quality,” Curtis said with a slight drawl reminiscent of her Georgia upbringing. “I profusely apologize to the bank, to the court, to my family and friends.”

Curtis was working as a vice president at the bank and was partly responsible for its real estate business when, in 2002, she created a shell company called New House LLC with her ex-husband, Kevin Caffrey of Naugatuck. Using her expertise managing transactions, she submitted paperwork representing the company as a vendor that was owed money for real estate transactions. After she and Caffrey divorced, she continued the scheme with her new husband, Gary Stocking, and a new shell company, Equity Realty.

The scam continued for seven years while Curtis got the bank to pay the shell companies 108 times. She also failed to declare the illegal income on her tax reports, resulting in a $1 million loss to the Internal Revenue Service, although she represented it as legal income to Bank of America in order to secure a mortgage exceeding $600,000.

The money was spent on luxuries including an East Hampton lake house, a $42,000 cruise, art, a $77,000 Steinway piano, expensive cars, motorcycles, boats, jewelry, first-class airfare to England and a destination wedding in Ireland.

“This is probably one of the most serious financial crimes that you’ve seen,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGarry said, arguing for a sentence of 14 to 17 years. “Ten years is a slap on the wrist.”

After her arrest in 2010, Curtis repeatedly violated her pre-sentence probation, causing her to be sent in April to the Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. She failed to report she was the co-signer of a lease, tried to hide that she had $15,000 cash, used a separate bank account without reporting it to the court and bought jewelry and video games for others without reporting cash reimbursements.

Her 11 months in prison will be credited toward her sentence, which Hall recommended she serve at the federal prison in Danbury. After her prison term, Curtis will be under supervised release for five years and will have to pay full restitution to Webster Bank, the IRS and Bank of America, Hall said.

Some of the things Curtis bought with the embezzled money have been seized and the money from their liquidation will count toward Curtis’s restitution payment.

Hall also recommended the Federal Bureau of Prisons provide Curtis with mental health treatment, which she must seek on her own after release in response to what Hall described as a “horrific” childhood.

Raised in poverty in Georgia, Curtis was “grossly abused by her mother’s boyfriends” and was responsible for raising her sisters from age 10, Hall said, citing a psychiatric report sealed from the public.

“A depraved existence, I think, doesn’t begin to describe it,” Hall said. “We failed you as a child in this country.”

Curtis has married four times and raised five children, including two who served in the military in Iraq. She was her children’s sports coach and Cub Scout leader, headed the Lions Club in Meriden and became the Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge there. She had no prior criminal record.

Curtis’s children and family members, who could not fit in one courtroom bench, declined to comment on her sentence. Her attorney, M. Hatcher Norris, said her history mitigated the extent of her punishment.

“I think that the judge gave my client a fair consideration of all of the factors,” Norris said. “I am very pleased that the sentence was substantially below what the government was asking for.”