Photo and story contribution by Kerry Geer Las Vegas Review Journal

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Ex-Ely city Councilman Steve Marich was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $5.9 million in restitution the first National bank of Ely in Federal court Wednesday.

The now ex-husband of a federal prosecutor, Sudabeh Fahami, pleaded guilty in February to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee.

“I am the sole person responsible,” he said at his sentencing hearing.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento handled the embezzlement prosecution because of Fahami’s position in Nevada.

Fahami’s relationship to Marich may have been at least partly the reason why almost a year elapsed between the initial charges and his plea bargain.

In fact had Marich not been Marich and Fahami had not been Fahami it would have been the Reno US attorney’s office that would have had the case.

In the plea bargain Marich maintains that he and he alone that committed the embezzlement which according to the document began well over ten years ago and as early as the mid-1990’s.

According to the plea document, prosecutors could only document that $3.7 million had been stolen from the bank, however the plea bargain suggest that Marich might have pilfered as much as $5.6 million in the 15 years he worked at the bank rising from cashier to Vice President.

According to court documents, Marich used his job as vice president of the First National Bank of Ely to pilfer the money from customers’ Treasury bill accounts. The thefts went on for at least nine years as Marich fueled a gambling habit that had him placing bets with Internet casinos overseas.

According to the plea agreement Marich agreed not to appeal either his conviction or his sentence as long as the time in prison was not more than the minimum suggested in Federal Sentencing guidelines– 30 years. Marich also agreed to pay at least $3.7 million in restitution or whatever the amount the court decides he owes. He also acknowledged that the First National Bank of Ely was likely to request over $5.6 million in restitution.

U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson ordered Marich to pay the larger amount as restitution.

Dawson rejected a defense request to reduce Marich’s prison sentence because of his “long-standing compulsive gambling disorder.” The judge said Marich had enough self-control to pass up his own funds and use the bank’s instead.

The defendant has until July 11 to begin serving his 78-month sentence. With credit for good behavior, he could knock about a year off his prison term.

“When the losses are in the millions, the sentence has to be significant,” Dawson said.

Bank president John Gianoli testified at the hearing and said Marich “ran like a coward” after the embezzlement was discovered in December 2009. Marich resigned from the Ely City Council a month later.

Gianoli said Marich received a six-figure salary and annual bonuses while working as a cashier at the bank, which was founded in 1907. Marich began embezzling from the bank 12 years ago, the president said.

“We spent countless hours and untold stress unwinding this mess,” Gianoli said.

Apart from Marich’s family perhaps the man most shaken by the crimes was Gianoli whose family owns the 105 year old First National Bank.

Admitting that  his business suffered a serious blow, Gianoli said his bank weathered the storm and was now healthy.

Indeed if this story has a hero it is Gianoli. Even before the FBI auditors had concluded their work the bank president vowed before depositors that he would make good on every cent Marich may have purloined and by the summer of 2010 still six months before the plea bargain was reached he had.

“The FBI did their investigation and the US Attorney compiled the case,” he explained but my duty and my responsibility was to our depositors. I know maybe another bank might have done things different. But it was the right thing to do.”

Thankfully for Gianoli and its depositors the bank is federally insured for deposits up to $250,000 otherwise Marich would not have ruined not only his life but the well being of perhaps hundreds of Ely residents not to mention putting the bank out of business.

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