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.

5 thoughts on “Wells Fargo in Reno, Willie Sutton Style

  1. As I read through this, I wonder if I ever really knew who Joni is/was. We’ve known each other for over 30 years, but reading through this makes me wonder about things I vaguely wondered about over the years and kind of glossed over not wanting to rock the boat, I guess.

    I could tell you stories, but won’t do that on a blog anyone can read. What you are saying doesn’t totally surprise me in any way. Then again, glossing over things that were vaguely disturbing was probably a way to bury my head in the sand and think it was just easier and better for both of us not to know. Some things had to do with Wells Fargo, some didn’t and took place before I knew her. Warning signs appeared but crossing her even then wasn’t easy.

    What a shame her life is going the direction it’s going. Yet she has all these people buffaloed into thinking she’s Ms. Susie Creamcheese (her own title for herself). Met her second hubby once and he was very quiet. After they left here I decided she’d told him exactly who was in charge in the relationship and she would do as she pleased. She has him buffaloed also. Too bad. Guess it’s best we parted ways. What a mess.

    • Yes, Mary, no reason to go over personal stories. As this is a first person blog/book of what I’ve gone through I have no fear for a few reasons: all this is the truth, and these kind of actions have to be shown for what they are. As a life coincidence, I can still reach the banker I worked with who could verify everything written. No doubt Wells picked Joni as a recruiter/district person based on her appearance and personality. That works in business — we’ve all seen that, and it will never leave. I hope this info has helped you and not hurt you, at least set you on a path for healing. When I get more into adult day care and elder health, it’s going to get very interesting. I’ll begin the foundation for that in my next post.

      • Joni is a sales person. She could sell anyone anything. As for the personality? She says it’s all bluff. Who really knows. As far as healing goes, I’m not hurt. There is a reason for everything and I consider it a door closed and a window open. It’s apparently a time in life where it’s out with the old and in with the new and not just with Joni.

        At any rate, I was just googling something for senior healthcare at one point and stumbled across your blog and found the title interesting. Never in a million years did I expect to know anyone you were talking about. Small world.

        It will be interesting to read on about elder healthcare. It’s a subject close to my heart right now even though I’m far away from Reno. I lurk on other forums also about this subject and it’s always good to learn from those in the know.

        • Glad you’re doing well. As a court appointed advocate for elders, I discovered bankers still pulling crap (mostly on seniors) once I left banking. Ms. Rose has the right to use her skills/talent as best she can, but what she and management did was enable fraud and exploitation. All for sales, numbers … and therefore, bonuses, seniority, and self-enrichment. That has nothing to do with sales and everything to do with lying. It’s good that you are informing yourself. I hope what I’ll be writing empowers your knowledge base.

  2. Hi you have a great blog over here! Thanks for sharing this interesting stuff for us! If you keep up this great work I’ll visit your website again. Thanks!

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