Senior News to Use

I had an anonymous request for more clarity on the Medicare changes, and I will research it for that person.  Thank you for reading!

ANSWER:  The Settlement Agreement applies to skilled maintenance services provided in all three care settings –  under Medicare home health, outpatient therapy and skilled nursing facility benefits.  (they are currently implementing it, and Medicare should be advising all beneficiaries soon.  I’ll be checking as well).  

Things that are important to seniors cross my desk, and while this blog is mostly amemoir of my care facility and expose of corruptive practices in Reno, NV, I also want to put out information that helps people — especially when it’s important.

Medicare has had a long-standing practice that in order to receive on-going physical therapy and home-health benefits, one has to show “improvement”.  In the cases of chronic conditions (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), this is generally impossible.  One doesn’t improve, but experiences incremental decline.

There has been a class-action suit, and that is going to change in many cases.  Medicare will begin to revise its policies to ensure that in-home, nursing home, as well as out-patient coverage becomes an option for those suffering from chronic conditions.  You should check this out.  Send me an e-mail, write a comment if you’re interested.  If you ask for anonymity, no problem.

Also … seniors are the most exploited population in the country for scams.  The  Protection Bureau has geared up to fight back.  From this article they are going to be investigating such things as:  reverse mortgages, county-run aging services, power of attorney, and guardianship.

If you have an interest in this, please contact me and I will pass on more information.

Have a great week!

Exposing Elder Care Corruption In Northern Nevada

It’s late in the evening as I write this; as is usual I try to come up with some artsy title for the post, some cheesy allegory or image that frames the day’s issue.  For a while I wanted to title this:  Touch And Go’s, or Zen And The Art Of Investigating … or some such nonsense.  Yeah, I’m babbling here, but please trust I’ll find a point.

Just in time.  Here’s the point, and there is a story involved.

I began flying planes in my teens.  Eventually I got my pilot’s license, a proud moment as I worked very hard, was a natural with the controls, (ailerons, rudder, flaps … etc), not so much with the radio navigation or maps, anything that rooted me to a place or a direction.  Heck, I just wanted to fly, avoid running into anything and come down safely.  I wanted to trust myself that if the motor quit, I’d enjoy the sound of the wind over my wings before I hit the checklist for a no-power landing.

It’s easy to take off; a plane is built to fly.  Takes some work to keep her straight and level, but you learn it with practice.  Landing is the big deal.  Winds change, visibility deteriorates, or you’ve been zooming along for hours and you’ve got to get sharp with five other planes in the pattern.  To get you ready for that you do touch and go’s, a series of landings, usually at an uncontrolled airport.  You make an approach, determine the pattern (rectangle) you’re going to fly.  You land the bird, raise the flaps, jam the power and take off.  Repeat this ten or fifteen times and you start to understand how to land a plane.

Performing a Touch and Go is a real landing and a real take-off … then again, it’s not.  Don’t we call something like this a gray area?

Uncovering and communicating a hidden agenda is a lot like a touch and go.  Very few people are going to come out and say:  “Here’s where it starts … this is the money trail.”

I spent many years, wore many hats in serving seniors.  Much of what I say are personal stories.  But there are those other stories from valued sources, and I have plenty of them.

Just a few days ago, I was with a client.  A doctor in town who worked in the mental health field and is now moving into the world of urgent care.  We started talking about the elder care network in Reno.  He said, “It’s a strange world.  I swear that there has to be payoffs, money floating underneath somehow.  Just couldn’t put ,my finger on it.”

I told him, yes you are right.  And yes again, it’s hard to pin down.

I write letters to the Division of Aging, the Governor, and the Alzheimer’s Association.  Now, the state of Nevada never wants to address anything in writing.  It’s hard enough to get them to answer an e-mail.  If you ever do get an e-mail from the state of Nevada that even approaches a sincere attempt at addressing an important issue, please write me. I want to see the Holy Grail in person.

And the AZ association, I’ll share that correspondence at some point.  I am going to write them again.  They are bound as a non-profit to disclose some things.  It will be interesting.

For my first post (coming shortly), I will share an e-mail from a former employee of the Nevada State Division of Aging.  What she had to say about a facility in town, and the status of services in Nevada.

Thank you for sharing this adventure with me.  We’re in a plane, powered up and winging into a sky that seems so blue …

Wells Fargo in Reno, Willie Sutton Style

As always, I want to say that there are good/bad people and systems in every city.  Reno is unique, and this blog relates events I have witnessed as a care facility owner, as an appointed court advocate, and many other hats I wore in service to seniors.

I enjoy reading history, although I didn’t have time to read during my employment with Wells Fargo in Reno.  (see earlier posts).  My wife’s cancer had returned only three months after we were married; I was making trips to San Francisco for her treatment.  I had barely enough time to journal these events, but it was better than watching the bills pile up on the kitchen table.

It’s fair to say that life is hard to understand at times.  In my Wells’ job, I was following two bankers who’d gamed the system, took advantage of seniors, and received glowing reviews for their numbers.  Alex ran a brick and mortar branch on Keystone, Jenelle was in business services, and Shirley Echols, knowing they’d done this, was looking to keep her management job going and retire out of the system.

There were times, whether it was late at night, or perhaps during the four-hour drive to San Fran that I considered the fairness of it all.  And I have to admit that I asked myself, “What stops you from joining the gang?”

It wasn’t like I didn’t have an urgent need for income, that I couldn’t work a computer or re-code things to make me look good.  And, being a guy who’d earned a union card for theater acting in his twenties, that I wasn’t a capable liar.  No, I could have put on the black hat, and I didn’t.  The reason?

There’s a couple of good reasons.  I can’t take advantage of people, and even more than that, I couldn’t pray to God every night to save my wife and be the kind of crook Wells Fargo seemed to prefer.

From my reading, I saw myself as a character in the George Orwell’s classic allegory, “Animal Farm.”  One of the animals is Boxer the horse.  He believes in the cause, works his ass off, straps on the plow every day, digs his hooves into the ground and pulls until his body can’t take it anymore.  Boxer — noble and broken.  It’s what you sign up for when your spouse is sick, or your parents are in decline.  You do it until you can’t do it anymore, or they expire — which ever comes first.

Of my travels in literature, one of my favorite bits is the answer that renowned bank robber Willie Sutton gave when asked why he robbed banks.  He said:  “Because that’s where the money is.”

I wasn’t thinking of that phrase when a woman sat down at my desk with her loan documents.  “Take a look,” she said.

Now, from months of experience in cleaning up Alex and Jenelle’s stuff, I usually knew what to expect, mostly overdraft accounts that had been jimmied to hit with fees after they’d left.  I looked at the car loan document and read.

“You picked up the disability insurance,” I told her.  “Yeah, it’ll help you if you get hurt or lose your job.  Kinda pricey.”

“That’s not my signature,” she said.  A scowl crawled into her face.  “I didn’t sign this.”

It’s one thing to fix checking accounts jammed with extra stuff, it’s another to analyze fraud.  And … as the messenger of bad news, how much of her anger will spill onto me?

“I’ll check into this,” I told her.  “Don’t you worry.  If there’s been a mistake — ”

“No mistake,” she insisted.  “That’s not my signature.”

I believed her.  My problem was that Shirley was protecting her turf, Joni Rose had sent a new banker, (her own personal hit-man, Lori), and I was a marked man.

I came in on the weekend and looked for the box of documents that Alex and Jenelle had stashed.  It was gone.

I stood there, scratched my head.  I had no clue whether it was Shirley, Joni, possibly Alex, who’d spirited the evidence away.  Would’ve helped to find the original loan docs and have the evidence in my hands.

I did the next best thing.  Saturday was a half-day at the bank, but I looked up the woman’s account, found that it was opened in another branch in Reno.  I called that branch and had them fax me a copy of her signature card.

When the fax came in, I could tell that the woman’s signature wasn’t even close to the loan docs with the expensive disability insurance.  That’s when I recalled Willie Sutton.  Willie had been only partially correct.  You rob the bank in the hopes there’s something left after they’ve done their own damage.  It’s all a matter of timing.

By the end of the next week, I’d fixed the loan.  I told Shirley in passing, knowing that she was well aware of the missing box, the scams that she’d tacitly endorsed, and was now a full-blown participant.  Conspirator is the better word.

My future at Wells was sealed.

When I left, I had no idea that somewhere down the road my experience would assist me in the guardianship world of seniors.  Wells Fargo tricks would appear again.  And somewhere, Willie Sutton was laughing … big-time.

Brief Interlude

I will wrap up Wells Fargo in the next day or so.  I did want to share a conversation I had with a female inmate currently incarcerated in North Las Vegas.

A bit of explanation:

In  June of 2010, a former Washoe County guardian was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzling nearly $300,000 from her elderly wards.  This woman had a gambling problem, as well as other issues.

The woman I spoke with this evening has also been convicted of elder financial abuse.  I have listened to her situation, done research in the courthouse on her case.  There is compelling data to show that she is being railroaded.

I don’t pretend to be a journalist, but I want stories outside of my own experience to be verified as much as humanly possible.  The questions I ask myself are:

Do I find it possible that the Reno elder care system would seek an elder victim story to deflect embarrassment about one of their own?

I do.

Is there evidence of a legal system that protects its own?

Hmm, Darren Mack called his old friends at the D.A.’s office in order to use influence.  So, yes.

Do I believe this person is innocent?

I don’t know.  I’ll have to peek under some slimy rocks, and it may take some time.  I will post my results.

Just wanted to let you all know.

And please, contact me with your own stories.  I’ll keep them anonymous unless you tell me  otherwise.

Every Day, A Road

On Jane’s last day I put on a good front about being happy for her.  And I was, but her replacement was a trip and my only ally was gone.

The gal Joni and Shirley brought in, Lori, came from another branch.  How much did she know Wells Fargo, at least in the northwest branch style?  I didn’t know.  I could guess, however.  The girl pumped me with questions:  “Whaddaya think of the sales numbers?   How about Joni and Shirley?  Do you enjoy sales, banking?  Why is your wife so sick?”

Jane’s exhaust was still fresh in the office, and I worked with a corporate spy.  I hunkered down at my desk and resolved to keep my mouth shut — not an easy thing for me.

People started to come in regarding their CD accounts.  The first man was in his seventies, a Basque gentleman.  He was of the generation whose family had settled in Reno when it was  a railway depot.

I showed him to my desk.  “Saw your rates,” he said, shaking his head.

“Yup, they change once a week.  They’re geared off of the Fed.”

We went through the options.  His had been a five year CD.  That many years ago, five percent didn’t seem so much.  But, as Shirley had claimed, that five is the magic number. Now we were looking at four-point-five.  He had twenty thousand, not a large amount, not small.  Important to him, of course.  In my life twenty grand would’ve given me six months of breathing room in Patty’s cancer battle.

“We got a savings account going at five percent,” I told him.

“Guaranteed?”

“Nope.  It’s not.  The most you’d get out of it is some flexibility to wait it out for a better rate.”

“How do you think that’ll go?” he asked.

I shrugged.  “It’s all up to the Fed.”

He scratched his head, said something uncomplimentary about banks that I didn’t rebut.

After he left, Lori showed up.  Right on cue.  I guess she had to report to Joni, Shirley, maybe the horses that pulled the stagecoach.  “One of your CD appointments?”

“Yup.”

“How’d it go?”

“He liked the five in the savings account.”

“Good job!”

I would never hear that from Julie.  “Ya think so?  Maybe he’ll go somewhere else if the rate dips.  I would.  I wonder if Wells saw that coming.”

Lori thought a moment.  A big girl with tumbleweed hair, I had to give Wells props for not imposing a beauty standard on their hiring.  “You’d stay in touch with him so he stays with us,” she said.

“I don’t push people … not my style.  Especially old folks like him.  He’s been around long enough to know a snow job.”

Lori appeared confused.  It was too much to wrap her head around, I suppose.  I’d made a sales number, done the right thing as close as I could get to.  Wells Fargo would either win or lose with that outcome.  Lori would figure it out.  My days with Wells were few, and my next discovery would be as significant as a box of hidden paperwork in the basement.

Wells Fargo, Reno – Anything goes

As always, a reminder that good/bad systems and individuals exist everywhere.  I believe Reno is unique and this is a blog/book memoir of my experiences as they relate to seniors.  After my time in Wells Fargo, I will cover the world of Elder Care, including some facts peculiar to Reno that include:

  • Federal money used for personal gain 
  • Parolees used as cheap labor for caregiving
  • Nevada’s Adult Care Centers efforts to squash competition
  • A care system abused
  • Reno’s Alzheimer’s Association as a franchise: what that means 

… and more.

Wells Fargo, Reno NV – Northwest Branch

Janie had found the smoking gun, and being a good, honest woman, demanded action.  For a few days after discovering the boxes of hidden documents, things seemed to take on a life of their own.  Shirley had mandated that we work on our own time after closing and call those customers whose CD accounts were terming out.  I was given a list of people to call.  Shirley wanted to see the results of my efforts, how many appointments I’d made for “informing people.”

The list was on my desk, as appealing as a root canal.  As the minutes ticked down to the end of the day, I played a few scenarios in my head:  “Hi, this is Wells, (screw-job) Fargo, I’m calling as the banker (vampire) of your branch.  I understand that you have a CD (safe money) expiring, and wanted to talk (ow-they’re twisting my arm–got a tourniquet?)  “We’ll have some coffee, (Vaseline for you) and chat.”

Jane had been grim all day.  During another lunch period when Shirley and Joni had retreated to parts unknown, she stopped at my desk.

“Tonster,” she said, “what’s the plan?”

I stood up, looked over the wall of my cubicle for spies.  The lead teller Shirley had brought in, Pam, seemed very curious about my opinions, especially about Wells.  “Isn’t this a great place, most of the time?  How do you sell those credit cards?”  Poor Pam.  Married to a part-time County sheriff, she came in once a week with her eyes wet, and too much pancake around her cheeks.  I was sure her husband terrorized her on a weekly basis, and while I felt bad for her, I felt even worse for my own wife’s cancer battle.

But the coast was clear. Janie’s eyes drilled into mine.

“Look,” I began, “you don’t have to deal with these crooks.  It’s not in you.  Your husband’s got a good gig and you can do better.”

“I’m looking,” she said.

“Me too.  I’m going to see if Alamo will let me work nights.”

Janie did the math.  “Sixteen hours a day?  You wanna do that?”

I shrugged.  “No choice.  Shirley, Joni, they know about Alex and Janelle’s crap.  And we’ve told her about all the accounts we’ve been fixing — what’s she done?  Nothing.  We’ve already signed our death warrant.  In sales you either sign up for the scam, or move on.  They don’t want reformers.”

Janie leaned back.  Many times she wore long denim skirts, a plaid blouse tucked in.  Sometimes I thought I was talking to Lassie’s TV mom, and it was a comfort.  Good people, good women especially existed outside of my small family circle.

“I told Shirley about the box,” said Jane.

“How’d that go over?”

“Shirley said, ‘I told Joni we never should’ve hired you.'”

“Really?” I said.  “Too honest for ’em, eh?”

Jane smiled.  An answer wasn’t required.

Wells Fargo Reno – Only Ghost Riders Need Apply

A friend from my days at Alamo, then Advantage Rent-A-Car, used to visit me at the branch.  I’ll leave his name out as he was, still is, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I respect him for his sobriety; I only mention that as it did allow me to gain the confidence of a Wells Fargo financial adviser he knew from the program.  Her name was Marcia, and I’ll launch into her revelations in a moment, but first let me cover something else.

Most of us would think a depository bank likes having lots of … deposits.  Deposits, right, as in CD’s, savings accounts, checking accounts?

Not so, at least in the way of CD’s.

Most Reno seniors, the customers at our branch in the northwest, (managed by Shirley Echols) had lots of older folks with CD deposits.  And this is because of the stable interest.  There is a magic number for interest, as Shirley explained during a staff meeting.

“Five percent,” she said.  “We have tons of CD accounts locked in at that amount.  Wells is offering a savings account at five percent plus.”

Janie and I exchanged looks.

“So,” Jane began, “what are we supposed to do?”

Shirley blinked, then dove into her pitch.  “We’re going to convince them that the savings account is a better deal, that they won’t have to accept an early withdrawal penalty if they want their money.  Also, they get a little bit more interest.”

Just a fraction, I thought.

I spoke up.  “Most of these folks don’t need the money.  They like it sitting there and getting checks for the interest.”

“That’s going to change,” Shirley countered.

“So, is this a sales number they’re gonna track?” I asked.

“Yes.  I’ll show you two how to run a report of the CD accounts coming up for renewal.  Call the people, get them to come in so you can explain the savings account advantage.”

Meeting over.  Jane and I plopped at our desks, filled our brains with the new information.  Later in the day I spoke to Marcia.

Marcia was a solid gal, not in the TV Mom way that Janie was, but in the fact that she had numerous certifications in the financial field.  She was always outside grabbing a smoke, and since she was in AA, I knew she’d bent an elbow.  Marcia gave you the dope, straight, no chaser.

“I can’t stay here,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s tough.  What’s going on?”

“I’m cleaning up too many things I didn’t cause.  Wells went on a tear with fixed annuities, offered a good bonus rate for the first year.  Then they crashed it.  People weren’t told, and now they’re screaming at me.  Not even my clients.”

I told her about the account mess Janie and I were stuck with, also the push for changing CDs to savings accounts.

“CDs are a liability.  The interest is considered a loss because it’s guaranteed.  Savings accounts aren’t viewed that way.  What do you think will happen to the rate after those people bail on their CDs?” she asked.

“You don’t have to tell me,” I answered.  “And that’ll be my mess.”

“Exactly,” said Marcia.  She offered me a smoke, and I lit it.

“Good luck to us,” I told her.

“Not me,” she said.  “I’m outta here.”

Another cigarette, another day.  I went to my desk and tried to figure out a noble way through this mess.  I couldn’t see one, really.  I looked at the calender.  I’d been in the hospital for my wife’s cancer treatment a few weeks ago.  How long before the tumor flared up, compressed her bile duct and I’d have to take off again?  How long till another trip?  How long could I make this job work?  How long anything?

Later in the afternoon Shirley had a meeting with district manager Joni Rose.  I was looking at the CD report when Jane sat down.  She appeared grim.

“Wazzup?” I asked.

“Tonster, you won’t believe what I found in the basement?”

“What?”

“C’mon.”

The Wells’ basement looked like a garage sale for bankers.  I have to admit, it fascinated me.  A few old chairs that looked like they’d belonged to old phone company telephone operators.  Dinged up file cabinets, machines from the early days of electronics.  Dunno why, I’ve always been a sucker for junk.

Janie steered to to a dark corner in the back.  Two cardboard boxes were crammed with documents.  “Take a look,” she said.

So I did.  I read through some of the stuff, checked the dates.

“Holy shit.  This is the paperwork from all the bogus stuff that Alex and Janelle opened up.

“Right,” said Janie.

“They never sent the stuff in.  Best way to avoid getting caught.”

“What should we do?” asked Jane.

I didn’t hear her.  I was thinking of a dear woman, her son, now my step-son.  “Let me think on it,” I said.

Wells Fargo, Reno — A circus without the clowns.

This blog details my days in Reno.  I’ve worked for some major companies, including Alamo, Norwest Bank, and Wells Fargo.  I would also own/run two businesses and become a caregiver to my cancer stricken wife.  Later I ran an adult day center specializing in dementia care, participated in a state council for that industry

I want to stress there are good people in Reno.  And there are bad people/systems, everywhere.  It is my belief that Reno is unique in its treatment of elders, due in part to gambling, but also to a network that protects its own.  This is a book that I’m blogging when I have the time as I am currently working on screenplays being considered by the film industry.

Thank you for reading this post.  It is the latest of many.  You may want to pick an earlier point in order to catch up with the story.

Jane and I muddled through the days.  Much of our time was used to clean up the bogus add-ons that had been generated by our predecessors, Alex and Janelle.  Each of us had brought up the scam to Shirley.  Her eyes crossed, her lips pursed, and she vowed to check into it.  She never followed up.

Alex had been promoted to a “brick and mortar” branch of Wells Fargo on Seventh street, just a few blocks away in the Albertson’s shopping center.  Shirley lit up like neon when he phoned.

Janie and I had resigned ourselves to the corporate version of re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic.  The sales goals were impossible — at least if one was honest.  We knew what Alex and Janelle had done, added on overdraft protection accounts and jimmied the system so the fees would hit after they were gone.  It was a trick I might’ve seen in my rental car days, but you don’t play with people’s money.  And it seemed that the population they targeted was always seniors.

Working in a scam environment sucked.

Still, there was some entertainment provided by local characters.  A disc jockey from Sacramento, Bob Castle, tried to open an account.  I liked the guy, not big, but burly — a biker dude in training with his imitation leather jacket.  There was a problem with getting him a checking account.  Wells Fargo, as most banks, use a program called ChexSystem.  It’s kinda like a TRW for banks, tracks who leaves accounts in the negative so that the next bank down the line can get ’em.  Bob was cool.  “No problem,” man.  “I’ll keep rocking.”

“I’m sure you will.”

Later, I’d know Bob Castle when I worked for Lotus Radio.  He passed away from Parkinson’s disease.  I smile when I think about him.

A news anchor’s wife came in.  “I’m Brent Boynton’s wife,” she announced before I could even hear her own name.  She wanted an SBA loan.

Now, lots of people thing the government is just waiting to give a person money to start a business.  Uh…no.  The bank will grind you.  They want a list of everything the biz owns:  chair, table, fax machine, how long your lease is, who wrote the business plan?  If they’re not satisfied, how much equity ya got in that house?  “A bank is happy to lend you money once you can prove you don’t need it.”  (Will Rogers)

The government guarantees the loan, but after going through a few of these apps, it sure seemed that Wells didn’t expect to get the money.

And, I can’t forget the UNR professor that walked in the bank, the guy who wanted the equity loan (2nd mortgage) on his home.  All kinds of names showed up — Shirley had suspected identity theft.

Well, there was a sort of identity theft … his wife’s doing.  She’d been running credit cards, payday loans, all kinds of weird stuff out there without telling her husband.  I can’t forget the last time I saw the big-shot professor walk in their.  A man going to an execution.  He came in alone.  Who knows where the wife was — perhaps she was near Albertson’s.  Pulling a slot next to Alex Militante’s bank.  Two of a kind, working for three.

Of course we had our corporate characters, the ebullient Joni Rose comes to mind.

If I ever work for a large corporation again, I will definitely have a jaundiced eye if the district manager has the looks and demeanor of a high-school cheerleader.  In a nutshell, that describes Wells’ regional head, Joni.

She’d come in the place with a smile borrowed from a  Red Skelton painting.  She’d cruse around the tellers, toss verbal pom-poms, corporate rah-rah to motivate the overworked women into grilling customers.  “Hey, if they’re getting a big cashier’s check, it could be the mortgage.  Is it our loan?  What credit cards do you see in their wallet, or purse?  Show a little personality.”

I can appreciate personality, even moreso when it’s paired with a good pair of legs, and Joni had that going for her.  But I knew she and Shirley talked.  They knew about the scams.  In some way, my days and Janie’s were numbered.

Still, my wife was sick, and five days of Wells’ hell was better than the alternative.

It would all bust open, and Janie, of all people, would get the call.

Filing–The Wells Fargo Reno Way

This blog is a continuing book of my time in Reno, dealing in situations where seniors were ripped off or taken advantage of.  The names used here are the actual ones, save for Jane, a good lady whom I always respected.

Picking up from my previous post …

As the weeks passed during my gig at Wells Fargo in northwest Reno, I could feel the vultures circling.  It was no mystery.

My wife’s cancer had returned only three months after we were married.  My life had evolved into a series of trips to San Francisco.  I’d stay with her in the hospital.  It was the right thing, not the easy or economical thing, to do.  There was no way I could ever predict how long those stays were.  Tough spot to be in, but nothing, of course, like having cancer hang over someone I loved.

Later in this blog when I write of the many difficult levels of caregiving, it comes from having fought many battles.

Anyway, the sales projections that the invisible number crunchers had assigned for Janie and I had become a joke.  For both of us, each month became more of a “how close can we get — what is the threshold for acceptable failure?” type of thing.

Now, Janie fretted.  We’d hustle ourselves outside on those rare occasions when Shirley Echols was out of the office, or district manager Joni Rose wasn’t on patrol.

“Tonster,” said Jane, “how many of those bogus accounts did you have to fix today?”

“Two.  And another that was one of Janelle’s suckers.”

“How did they get away with it?”

I shrugged.  “Can’t figure.  It’s fraud, pure and simple.  Right now I’m just trying to keep my own head above water.  How are your numbers going?”

Jane shook her head.  “I’m running out of friends from the neighborhood to ask.  Look, they wanna help me, but our home loan rates are through the roof.  I can’t ask them to pay more just so’s I can keep my job.”

“Here’s the deal,” I told her.  “It’s not in you to be a crook like Alex and Janelle.  You gotta find one thing you’re comfortable with, and shoot for that.”

“LIke what?”

I told her that mine was credit cards.  Anyone who asked me anything in the bank, whether it related to banking, how lousy the Raiders were playing, how screwed up the country’s politics was, got asked for a credit card.  Credit cards were profitable, but a person could bail on keeping them.  You could cancel ’em, cut ’em up, never to be used again.  Hell, you could even stick ’em in bankrupttcy.  All that mattered to me was that I was first or second in the region in credit card sales.  I did one thing good, the product provided the least damage.  Something to keep my job and maintain my wife’s battle against cancer.

Janie knew that I’d done sales before, and when I clued her in to these aspects of “the game,” our talks would end with a big grin on her face.  Like any other person who didn’t want to fail in her job all she wanted was an inside look to give her the best shot.

There are some things I’ll never forget about that job.  One is the little fat guy who wrote small checks to different charities:  the Human Society, Food Bank, Abused Women’s groups–five, maybe ten bucks.  He bounced about six of these checks and Shirley was primed to charge him $25 per bounced check.  I reversed the charges when she was out of the office.  “Please don’t do that again,” I told the little guy, “because I probably won’t get a second chance to help you.”

There was also the wife of a big-shot at the University of Nevada.  He strutted in like he owned the bank.  Shirley saw this one coming, got herself in front of the guy seconds after he pushed through the door.  A week or so later, Shirley Echols found me at my desk.

“Something’s weird with this loan, Tony.”

“Like what?”

“All kinds of other names are showing up on her credit report.  I think we have a case of identity theft.”

In the early days of identity theft, most of our security efforts dealt with keep records secure, especially credit reports.  Wells had a secure in-house mail program.  We all watched that stuff carefully.  “You’ll get to the bottom if it,” I told Shirley.  “There’s got to be an answer.”

“It’s going to blow the loan,” she said.

It wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, I thought.

I was wrong.

What Wells Fargo Bank can do, has done, and will probably do again …

In 2012, I focused more on my writing in this blog, rather than the publicizing of it.  I just wasn’t interested in that.  It’s coming to the point where my words are getting around in Reno, and as I expose much of what goes on in the elder care field here, I want to say that there are lots of good people in Reno.  No place is completely bad, (of course).  Reno is unique in that it is close to the capitol, Carson City.  Old ties die hard, partnerships that aren’t always fair, or beneficial to the public.  I’ll say this again in different ways, but let’s return to my time at Wells Fargo Bank in Reno, NV.

As the days went by, Janie and I found ourselves fixing numerous accounts, and it was usually seniors.  I’d be at my desk, reading the latest corporate rah-rah e-mail, checking my numbers, and glance at the waiting area.  Two, three times a day, I’d see a couple, papers clutched in their hands.  Frowning gray-haired men, anger pressed into their face, staring a hole through me.  Or a lone woman, a widow perhaps, knees pressed together, anxious like a wounded bird.

I’d sit them down.  Hear the story:  “We opened this account a year ago with Alex.  He was very nice, we had no questions.  Now we’ve got all these charges … overdraft protection.  We didn’t ask for that….”

One day, after a few weeks of this crap, one old fellow, in the booming voice of a drill instructor, says, “What the hell’s going on?”

I folded my hands, drew him in closer.  “I’m going to fix this,” I told him.  “But since you asked, I’ll tell you.  Alex started here as a customer service rep, worked himself up to banker.  Wells puts a lot of pressure on sales, so he added stuff to your account, put in a code that the fees would not appear till he was outta here.  Now, he’s gone.  And I’m cleaning up the mess.”

The man took this in; his face softened a little, but not too much.  He had big hands and I don’t think he needed Viagra.  “You tell Alex that he shouldn’t be picking on seniors.  Will you tell him that?”

“Sure, if I ever get the chance.  Ya see, Wells Fargo promoted him.  He runs the bigger bank down the street.  I think he’s their minority success story.”

“Ain’t right,” said the man.

Tell me about it.