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Bankers charged in $400K ATM card heist

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Posted: 4 pm ET

Ever feel a little squeamish about the amount of information and control bank personnel have over your finances? Turns out those worries aren't entirely unfounded.

Two New York-based private bankers were charged this months with a scheme that involved using fake ATM cards and other means to siphon more than $400,000 from the accounts of customers at the bank where they worked, JPMorgan Chase, according to a report in The New York Times.

The 2 bankers, Jonathan Francis and Dion Allison, likely chose the accounts based on their large balances and few recent transactions. Eight of the 15 accounts belonged to deceased clients, and all of the accounts were fed with direct deposits from the Social Security Administration, according to the New York Times.

Along with accomplices, the pair allegedly siphoned money from the accounts, mostly by using ATM cards they created.

Altogether, they withdrew $300,000 from New York-area ATMs over the course of 2 years. They later turned to forging power of attorney documents so they could withdraw money in larger amounts, at 1 point withdrawing a lump sum of $49,929.91 from 1 account.

Not an isolated case

As The New York Times report points out, this isn't the 1st high-profile fraud case against a JPMorgan Chase employee this year. A few examples:

  • A teller named Nadia Figueroa was convicted in a scheme that stole $850,000 from JPMorgan Chase customers.
  • A Chase customer named Yelena Galper sued the bank over charges its employees used her identity to hide a Medicare fraud scheme.
  • Michael Oppenheim, a former JPMorgan Chase investment adviser was charged with stealing $20 million from customers.
  • Peter Persaud, a bank employee who was charged earlier this year with selling sensitive personal information of JPMorgan Chase customers to a police informant.

Drawback to private banking?

One of the big selling points for private banking is that bankers can take a truly comprehensive view of a client's finances, looking at everything from their checking account to their retirement accounts when giving financial advice (and selling bank products).

But that sort of top-down, eagle-eyed view of a customer's finances would appear to offer opportunities for fraud as well, should a private banker be tempted to go scouting for likely targets, as Frances and Allison allegedly did.

What do you think? Do you ever worry that rogue bank employees are cashing in on your private information or stealing your cash?

Follow me on Twitter: @claesbell.

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12 Comments
RON
January 07, 2016 at 10:47 am

SAME PROBLEM WITH BANK OF AMERICA

SsW
January 07, 2016 at 10:03 am

J. P. Morgan/Chase? It figures. Not surprised at all because I believe questionable behaviors AND ATTITUDES are systemic there, from the top down. The lower employees in many places take on the thought and behaviors that filter down from the top. Just watching and listening to the news in the past several years demonstrates that and the multiple penalty fines being paid over the years. I've had personal family experience exposing that as well.

stgcret
January 04, 2016 at 7:52 am

Going to a "Bank Investment Adviser" would be like asking the fox guarding the hen house a recommendation on where one could invest in chickens?

Joe Chaloux
December 30, 2015 at 6:57 pm

The other important question is how are the eight deceased account holders still getting social security deposits, how long has that been going on, and has it been stopped now?

Elaine Roberts Musser
December 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm

As an attorney and consumer advocate, I took on a case pro bono (for free) involving a so called "reputable" bank. A bank teller steered my client toward an investment advisor affiliated with the bank who was seated inside the premises. With an office inside the bank, it made it appear as if this investment advisor was FDIC insured, which of course was not the case. This investment advisor illegally talked my unsophisticated client into investing in an extremely risky and totally unsuitable stock portfolio. When my client lost almost all her life savings, and tried to save what little she had left, the investment advisor was nowhere to be found. Not surprisingly, the bank was not particularly helpful in locating this investment advisor. Subsequently I found a lawyer for my client who specialized in these sorts of cases, and my client filed a lawsuit against the bank and investment advisor. She was able to obtain a good portion of her money back. This same bank has had a number of accusations made against it of similar unsavory practices. "Reputable" banks all too frequently engage in questionable practices. As a consumer, do your homework, and check out investment advisors, even if those advisors have offices inside a bank. Just because it says FDIC insured on the window of the bank, it does not make the investment advisor renting space in the corner of the bank FDIC insured.

Johnny
December 30, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Wonder how long it took to realize they were getting below the minimum to get overdraft fees like Harris Bank does in the mail before finding out irregular activity was going on