A former advisor with SunTrust Bank in Staunton, Va., was sentenced earlier this month to 41 months in federal prison for stealing roughly $500,000 from a longtime customer.
Kirsten Flynn Hawkins began swiping money from the elderly customer a few months after he suffered a debilitating stroke in July 2011, according to court documents filed with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. From early November 2011 to his death in August 2014, she used the victim's credit card and bank account to pay for more than $472,000 in rent and utility bills and lavish gifts for herself, her daughter and others.
According to court records, she and her family took numerous beach trips, traveled extensively, stayed in hotels, and ate and drank at the customer's expense. Hawkins also racked up thousands of dollars in charges for shopping trips, furniture, jewelry, and even a professional photographer.
Hawkins' defense attorney, Dana Cormier of Staunton, Va., said that trouble in her personal life —her divorce from her prescription-drug-addicted husband, her daughter's drug overdose and the loss of her home to foreclosure, all of which occurred in the summer and fall of 2011—led her to cross the line with her customer.
After the loss of her marriage and her home, she tried desperately to keep up appearances by maintaining her former lifestyle in order to instill confidence in her clients and to attain new clients, Cormier said in court documents.
Hawkins, who was adopted, also tried to impress her biological family whom she had recently met for the first time. She wanted to project an image of success and wealth to the family that abandoned her, Cormier explained. "It does not take a Ph.D. in psychology to understand the obvious psychological scars from the perceived abandonment an adoptive child might feel towards her biological parents," he said.
CAN'T STOP HERSELF
Cormier petitioned the court to give Hawkins a lighter prison sentence, arguing that she demonstrated remorse for her criminal conduct and felt guilty each time she processed an unauthorized credit card and bank transaction. Even though she vowed that every transaction would be her last and that she'd pay it all back, she simply couldn't stop herself, much like a drug addict unable to resist drugs, Cormier said.
"She drank and abused her anxiety medications to cover her shame," he said.
Hawkins, who was barred by FINRA in March, did not return an email sent to her via BrightScope Advisor Pages, an online directory for advisors. She could not otherwise be reached for comment.
In addition to her 41-month prison sentence, Hawkins was ordered to pay $472,289 in restitution to SunTrust. A large chunk of that—$291,000—has already been set aside from Hawkins' assets.
Hawkins resigned from SunTrust Bank's brokerage unit in November 2014. She had been with SunTrust since December 2002, according to her BrokerCheck report.
Hugh Suhr, a spokesperson for SunTrust Bank, declined to comment on Hawkins and her jail sentence.
Hawkins requested that she serve her time at in Alderson, W. Va., to be near family.