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.