Rob $1K from a Bank, Get Four Years; Defraud It of $100K, Get One Year

Categories: Courts, Crime

The hammer comes down, sometimes.
Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

-- Woody Guthrie, "Pretty Boy Floyd"

Our advice: Do your bank robbing with the fountain pen. Or its modern equivalent.

One week, two sentences handed down in Southern District of Texas federal court for bank robbers.

One, Martin Antonio Montoya, 22, robbed a bank and got more than four years in prison for stealing $1,174. Oh, and 58 cents.

Another, Michelle Lauryn Osteen, defrauded the bank she worked at for almost $100,000. Her sentence: a year and a day.

Montoya -- who according to court documents had no priors -- didn't use a gun in his crime, but, the U.S. Attorney's Office says, he did give the teller a note "demanding she give him all her money or else he was going to hurt her as well as everyone in the bank."

Osteen just spent two years slyly manipulating accounts so that cash from trusts meant for incapacitated people made its way into her pocket.

Noted legal expert Brian Wice says he doesn't think the disparity in those sentences "is all that great -- bank robbery and embezzlement are two different crimes."

Federal sentencing guidelines limit the discretion a judge has in sentencing, and a lot of the discretion they do have will be influenced by a pre-sentencing report that outlines the character of the defendant.

Joel Androphy, another local big-time lawyer, says the fraud sentence may have been shortened in order to increase the likelihood the stolen money is paid back.

"If you put her away for five years, no one gets anything, but if it's one year she can get out and get a job and start paying back," he says.

In some cases, family members can chip in to pay restitution, and that can affect how long a sentence a prosecutor asks for, he says.

Still, our advice stands: Use the fountain pen.

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Ryan S
Ryan S

the amounts have nothing to do with it, it's about the potential harm to life.  if someone gets robbed at gunpoint and the perp gets $1.50 should he just get a day in jail?


Major disparities in sentencing are a significant problem. Even two people convicted of identical crimes may face vastly different consequences from the justice system, depending upon which state they committed the crime in, or what info they have to offer in exchange for a plea deal. Judges in the same jurisdiction often vary widely in the sentences they hand out as well.


This is the root of my obsession. Who's good, who's bad, who decides and how?

I shoot some unarmed kid to death in the street and a grand jury indicts me on anything from manslaughter to capital murder. A cop shoots some kid in the back, reloads and empties another clip into the kid as he tries to crawl away and the same grand jury buys this "fearing for his life" crap and the cop walks.


That's the world we live in. If you don't like it, change it.


Hence the term, "my obsession?"  I'm in the  trenches every day both in the day gig, (family/municipal courts) as a child advocate and a would-be novelist. Right back atcha. 

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