Monday, April 25, 2016

Wells Fargo Bank opened two accounts in my name for a third party, without my knowledge or permission, or my signature on any bank documents, using a phony driver’s license and a photocopy of an unsigned account application

Several years ago, I hired a property management company to manage and maintain an out of state property that I owned in Utah.

The management company wanted me to give them full financial control of the property and in turn, they would pay the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and any maintenance or repair costs incurred, from the more than ample income generated by the building as a HUD Affordable Housing complex. 

Because the HUD subsidy checks were made payable to me, but mailed to the management company, they wanted me to give them permission to open business checking accounts in my name, so they could deposit the tenant's rent checks, the checks from HUD, and write checks to pay the bills. 

At the time we executed our contract, the management company gave me a Wells Fargo Bank - Account Authorization and Account Application to sign, which had already been pre-signed by three officers of the management company.

The building generated more than $100,000 per year, and because I didn't know these people, or have any prior relationship with them, I was more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of giving them unrestricted access to that much money.

I told the management company that I wanted to investigate alternative banking and bill pay methods, and I left their offices with the Wells Fargo Account Application and Authorization forms they had given me, and I never signed them. (photo below)

I still have those documents today. They are still unsigned by me and they have never been out of my possession since the day the management company gave them to me

A few weeks later, I unexpectedly received a Wells Fargo ATM card in the mail. I contacted Wells Fargo Customer Service to ask them why they had sent me the card and what it was for, and the customer service representative told me that the card was associated with the accounts I had recently opened in Utah.  I told her that I had not opened any accounts in Utah, but she insisted that I had, and then put me in contact with the branch office where the accounts had been opened. 

The Business Accounts Manager at the branch told me that it was actually the management company who had opened the accounts, and reassured me that no account fraud had occurred. 

He lied
I told the Business Accounts Manager that I had not authorized the management company or Wells Fargo, or anyone else to open bank accounts for me. I also told him that the management company had asked me to sign an Account Authorization and Application so they could open bank accounts, but I was not comfortable with that arrangement and I never signed those documents and I still had them in my possession.  

Once more, the Business Accounts Manager assured me that the accounts had been opened legitimately, and that no account fraud had occurred. 

Again, he was lying 
He also told me that the bank had obtained all of the required supporting documentation and necessary items, including a signature card, my identification, and proof of a DBA filing, at the time the accounts were opened, which would have been impossible, given that on the date the accounts were opened, I had not been in Utah for over a month. I did not sign any bank documents while I was there, nor did I give anyone copies of my identification, or authorize anyone to open bank accounts. 

Nevertheless, the Business Account's Manager continued to insist that the bank had received everything that was required to open business bank accounts, and led me to believe that I had signed another set of bank documents, which the management company used to open the accounts.

Wells Fargo lied to me and led me to believe that the accounts had been opened with all of the proper supporting documentation that anyone opening business accounts would be required to provide to the bank. Since arrangements needed to be made that would enable the management company to pay the bills, and since the accounts were already open, I allowed them to stay open, because certainly the bank I had done business with for nearly 20-years would never lie to me, or open accounts without my knowledge or permission. Right? 

For the next 4-years, the management company repeatedly told me that everything was going great and that the building was running smoothly, and aside from exceedingly high maintenance and repair costs, I had no reason not to believe them....until one day, I received a voicemail message from them, telling me that a woman had been brutally murdered on the property. Shortly after that, I learned that just weeks earlier, another tenant had been violently raped at gunpoint inside her apartment. 

I made the decision to hire another management company to take the building over and I traveled to Utah over the Thanksgiving holiday to make the change, but before I could get there, the management company had written three checks to themselves on the building's accounts, totaling nearly $7,000 and cashed them at Wells Fargo Bank, effectively draining the accounts of any available funds. 

The check numbers matched gaps that had been maintained in the check numbering sequence by the management company, which Wells Fargo immediately identified, noting that their risk models show that when gaps are maintained in the check numbers, it enables someone to write a check that would appear to have been written at an earlier date. Wells Fargo also noted that their risk models show that the presence of such gaps, are often an indicator of check fraud. The checks were also for uncharacteristically high dollar amounts, another risk model indicator of fraud, yet Wells Fargo cashed the checks anyways, despite these glaring red flags, and never even bothered to investigate, or notify me. 

When I arrived at my property, I barely recognized it. The building had become a run down dilapidated tenement. The management company had failed to maintain it by any known standard of care, yet they had spent every last dime (over $400,000) that the building had generated over four years. 
The photos below show the condition of my building 
Top: On the day I hired the Management Co. 
Bottom: On the day our contract ended

Because the management company continued to write checks on the building's accounts after our contract terminated, I went into the Wells Fargo branch where they had opened the accounts, advised them of the situation, and asked them to close the existing accounts and open replacement accounts with different account numbers.

The Wells Fargo Branch Manager closed the existing accounts, but then refused to open the replacements, because none of the required supporting documentation for the accounts was on file with the bank. No proof of a DBA filing with the state. No signature card for me, no Account Application or Authorization on file. Nothing.  

Wells Fargo Bank had fraudulently opened these accounts hoping
that I wouldn't find out what they had done... but I did

I asked the branch manager how the accounts could have been opened in the absence of these items, and he told me that Wells Fargo would not have opened them... but they did. He also added that if the accounts had somehow been opened without the required supporting documentation, the bank's computers would have red flagged the accounts and the bank would have closed them after 30-days... but somehow that never happened, because the management company's contact at the bank was making sure that it didn't.

The fact is that, not only did Wells Fargo knowingly open the accounts in violation of Federal banking requirements,  they also failed to close them after 30-days, and went well out of their way to cover up what they had done for four years, while the management company ran my building into the ground and were apparently using the accounts as their own private little piggy bank. 

I asked Wells Fargo for a written explanation as to how and why they opened two business checking accounts in my name, in my absence, without my signature, identification, or proof of a DBA filing with the state, and why they allowed those accounts to remain open for four years without ever notifying me as the primary account holder listed on the accounts, that they were opened illegally, but they refused to answer, or cooperate with me further.

Wells Fargo wasn't about to admit to me in writing that one or more of their employees had knowingly opened fraudulent accounts without obtaining any of the items or documentation that is required to open business accounts

When I asked the management company to turn over all of the banking materials that were associated with the accounts, they told me that the checks were computer generated, and that all deposit slip books and records had been shredded, "in accordance with the company's annual shredding policy." 

Why would the management company shred banking materials?
Unless they were trying to hide something... Like evidence of fraudulent accounts

A few days later, a lesser informed employee of the management company, who was not aware that I had already been told the deposit slip books and records had been shredded, turned over every deposit slip book that had ever been issued for the accounts over four years.
They were in remarkably good condition considering they had reportedly been shredded.

That's when I turned to the CFPB - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the OCC - The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for help.