BALTIMORE — The former head of Cecil Bank pleaded guilty in US District Court Friday to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, receipt of a bribe by a bank official, and false statement in bank records in a scheme that cost the bank $145,000.
Mary Beyer Halsey, 59, faces 30 years in prison for each charge for her role in the straw purchase of a home at 127 Ebenezer Church Road in Rising Sun. She was indicted in February on six charges including bank fraud and false statement to a bank examiner, but pled guilty to three.
Halsey admitted she worked with Daniel Whitehurst, an employee of a real estate development company, to defraud Cecil Bank and another financial institution to purchase the single family home under false pretenses.
Whitehurst, from Bel Air, pleaded guilty in April 2018 to federal mail fraud charges and faces 30 years in prison. While no sentencing date has been set for him, Halsey will learn her fate Nov. 6. In a statement from the court, U.S. District Judge Deborah K Chasanow will consider the sentencing guideline and other statutory factors but added that “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.”
Over the course of several months Halsey and Whitehurst met and concocted the plan to have Whitehurst purchase the home that had been foreclosed on by Cecil Bank at considerably less than its appraised value of $295,000.
The loss from the house sale was a portion of the $11 million in federal Troubled Asset Relief Program funds lost by Cecil Bank’s failure, according to Christy Goldsmith Romero, special inspector general. TARP was a federal program established to aid homeowners in financial crisis during the housing downturn that began in 2008.
Cecil Bank, through its parent company, Cecil Bancorp, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2017 in a bid to raise $30 million in stock sales. By October that same year the sale was completed and the bank emerged from bankruptcy.
Court records indicate Halsey and Whitehurst worked together to undercut the value of the home and falsify the appraisal. This included claims made before bank officials that the house had structural issues and other problems that devalued it. This gave Halsey the green light to negotiate a “best price offer” and obtain a home valued at almost $300,000 for half that. From Oct. 31, 2012 to March 29, 2013 Halsey transferred $60,000 to Whitehurst for the house upgrades. Halsey never revealed that she was the purchaser of the Rising Sun home. No one in the bank knew of Halsey and Whitehurst’s actions.
Halsey retired in Nov. 2013, about six months after federal agents began interviewing employees about irregularities at the 61-year-old bank.