Ex-Synovus worker sentenced for taking $166,000 from scholarship funds

After tearfully apologizing for her offense, a former senior trust specialist with Synovus Bank was sentenced to prison Tuesday for taking about $166,000 from scholarship funds set up for employees’ children.

Bridget Thompson last year pleaded guilty in federal court to two charges from a 10-count indictment alleging that from August 2010 to June 2013, she used her position to fraudulently withdraw money from scholarship funds and convert it to her own use. With defense attorney Richard Hagler of Columbus, she was before U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land for sentencing Tuesday.

“I just want to apologize for my actions. I know it was wrong,” she said through tears, her voice cracking. “I know it has caused a lot of grief for my family and my kids.”

Hagler said his client since has found other work, and her employers submitted letters on her behalf attesting to her character. She has accepted responsibility for her crime and tried to move on, Hagler said.

According to her plea agreement, Thompson faced up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million on each count. Land sentenced her to a year and nine months in federal prison plus three years’ supervised probation and ordered her to repay the $166,000.

“The defendant’s primary duty was the management of scholarship funds maintained by Synovus on behalf of the children of its employees,” read Thompson’s plea agreement. “Most prominent among these scholarship accounts were the Jack Parker Trust Account and the Total Systems Future Scholars Fund.”

These were the two counts to which Thompson pleaded guilty:

On July 25, 2012, she created and signed a customer debit ticket on the Total Systems Future Scholar Fund for $1,665.51, then took the ticket to a Columbus Bank & Trust branch for payment and kept the cash.

On Feb. 11, 2013, she created and signed a customer debit ticket on the Jack Parker Trust Account for $2,000, and again kept the money for herself.

“Throughout the course of her employment, the defendant executed approximately 300 similar fraudulent transactions in this same manner,” the government said. "The total loss resulting from this scheme was approximately $166,000."

Thompson’s grand jury indictment listed 10 specific offenses from Aug. 5, 2010, to May 17, 2013. Besides the 2010 case, it listed three in 2011, two in 2012 and four in 2013. The indictment said she first devised the scheme on Nov. 30, 2009.

Her plea agreement said she gained her position over the scholarship funds in 2006.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin Hyde Jr. was the prosecutor on Thompson’s case.

Land let Thompson remain on pretrial release until she’s to report to prison.