DETROIT -- Ronald Page couldn't believe his good fortune when a computer glitch enabled him to withdraw more than $1.5 million from ATMs at three Detroit casinos in August 2009.
During the next 14 days, the 56-year-old retired autoworker burned through his newfound riches at blackjack tables.
The bill came due on Wednesday, when a federal judge in Detroit sentenced Page to 15 months in prison and ordered him to repay Bank of America from his $2,000-a-month General Motors' pension.
"I am completely apologetic to Bank of America," Page told U.S. District Judge Sean Cox before sentencing. "I knew I was wrong. I was sick. ... But I plan to get well."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Abed Hammoud said Page, who retired in 2006 after 30 years at GM, discovered he could use his debit card at the casinos' ATMs to withdraw unlimited amounts from his bank account.
During the next two weeks, Page withdrew amounts ranging from about $52,000 to $515,000, Hammoud said. By the time Bank of America realized what was going on, Page had withdrawn more than $1,543,100.
"It was like giving a junkie crack cocaine," Page's lawyer, Richard Morgan Jr. of Pontiac, said in court documents. He said Page is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who got hooked on gambling.
Morgan said the episode cost Page his marriage, his home and now, his freedom.
"He is now a broken and lost man who has to deal with the rest of his life of attempting to pay back a sum of money that is nearly impossible to pay back," Morgan said.
Page pleaded guilty in March to theft of bank funds.
Although court workers calculated a permissible sentencing range of 37-46 months in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office recommended 15 months, partly because the problem was caused by the bank. Bank of America wouldn't comment.
Morgan said Page, who is in poor health, gambled for a 24- to 36-hour stretch without sleep. After resting, he returned to the table and continued to gamble.
Although Page won significant amounts during the 14-day blitz, he eventually lost all of it to the casinos, Morgan said.
By DAVID ASHENFELTER
Detroit Free Press