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Former bank teller gets 14 months for stealing

A former bank teller was sentenced Wednesday to serve 14 months in prison for stealing about $50,000 from a downtown Fargo bank. Brandon Michael Hooker, 23, 1104 2nd St. E., was a teller at American Federal Bank's downtown branch when he staged a...

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A former bank teller was sentenced Wednesday to serve 14 months in prison for stealing about $50,000 from a downtown Fargo bank.

Brandon Michael Hooker, 23, 1104 2nd St. E., was a teller at American Federal Bank's downtown branch when he staged a robbery April 6.

Hooker pleaded guilty to embezzlement by a bank employee on July 22. Federal prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of lying to an FBI agent.

Hooker was the only employee working in the branch bank at 406 4th St. N. when he called Fargo police about 9 a.m. April 6.

He said a man claiming to have a gun walked into the bank before it opened and demanded money.

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After hours of questioning by investigators, and just before he was to take a lie detector test, Hooker confessed to staging the robbery.

Hooker then took investigators to the downtown Fargo YMCA, where he left a Nike duffle bag holding about $38,000.

He told investigators he took the money from the bank the day before.

Hooker also admitted taking other money from the bank, including two deposits from Bjornson Oil Co., a Fargo business.

In all, he stole an estimated $50,000.

About $12,000 hasn't been recovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud-Puhl said.

"I will be sorry for what I've done for the rest of my life," Hooker said in court.

Puhl recommended that Hooker, who has no criminal history, be sentenced to four months in prison and four months of home detention.

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But U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said the recommendation wouldn't do justice for Tracy Plante, a former Bjornson Oil Co. employee who lost her job after the company's two bank deposits turned up missing.

"That is deeply disturbing to me," Erickson said. "This is a horrible case."

The judge said state prosecutors also had solid evidence that Hooker embezzled money from his previous job at a Fargo credit union.

"What I see here is a very self-centered young man who has had everything handed to him and fails to take responsibility for his actions," Erickson said.

The judge sentenced Hooker to 14 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised probation.

Hooker must also pay restitution.

Erickson released Hooker, who has been free on bond, but ordered him to turn himself in Oct. 25 to begin his prison sentence.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526

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