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Secretary's $17 Million Proved To Be Only Fleeting
By Jamal E. Watson, Globe Staff, 5/20/2000
Catherine Marra doesn't quite fit the profile of a millionaire. She lives in a modest Topsfield house and takes the T every morning to her job as a legal secretary at a downtown Boston law firm.
But don't tell that to Fleet Bank officials, who until yesterday had insisted that Marra's checking account had a balance of $17,334,374.89.
''When the bank sent me a letter saying that I had millions of dollars, the first thing I did was ask my boss, `Did you surprise me and put a bonus in my account?''' Marra said with a chuckle.
It didn't take her long to realize that there were no bonuses, just banking errors and multiple headaches as she tried to rid her account of the millions that apparently were put there a week before.
Marra believes she is another victim of the snafus that have plagued the merger of BankBoston and Fleet. A bank spokesman said Marra's woes were probably the result of human error.
Her problems began on April 27 when she made a $1,500 deposit at a downtown teller machine machine that had been owned by BankBoston. A Fleet Bank official sent her a letter saying her account had been mistakenly credited with $15,000 and the difference would be debited from her account.
But the bank made two $15,000 debits, overdrawing Marra's account.
And then came the news from the bank that she had suddenly struck it rich. ''I just thought, `Oh, my God, what have they done now,''' Marra said.
In between trying to sort out all the problems, Fleet seized Marra's account, preventing her from withdrawing any money. Luckily, she also has an account with a small bank in Topsfield, so she had some extra cash squirreled away.
''This all was so insane,'' she said, ''I really think I was a casualty of the merger.''
Jim Schepker, FleetBank Financial spokesman, said: ''My best guess is this was a simple error.
''It's also possible that the customer's account number could have been one digit different from a large commercial account and the funds were incorrectly put in the wrong place,'' he said.
By yesterday afternoon, the bank had finally sorted out the mess, and Marra's millions suddenly disappeared, bringing her account down to the correct balance of several hundred dollars.
''If I really had millions of dollars, I'd probably be in Venezuela right now,'' she said.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 5/20/2000. ) Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), May 20, 2000