Monday, October 03, 2011

U.S. v. Gilchrist (9th Cir. - Oct. 3, 2011)

Smart(ish) move:  Getting a job at Wells Fargo under a fake name, adding your real name to various bank accounts of its customers as an additional "authorized account holder," and then taking money out of their accounts.  Upside:  Getting money from multiple accounts.  Easy.  Downside:  Not a ton of cash. $13,000 total.  Somewhat easy to eventually catch you.  (Smart move by Gilchrist:  When a fraud investigator for Wells Fargo talked to him about the theft, the second the investigator mentioned Gilchrist's real name, he walked out of the office that very second and never returned.)

Even smarter scam:  Check-kiting and identity theft.  A year later, Gilchrist starts opening up accounts at Wells Fargo using various fake names, typically d/b/a various (also fake) businesses.  He then deposits a plethora of (fake) checks to those accounts, and then withdraws the money before Wells Fargo gets the check back.  Upside:  He knows the system from the inside.  Scheme works.  Repeatedly.  Lot of cash.  Over a quarter million dollars.  Downside:  It's a crime.  Like every crime, eventually, you're likely to get caught.  Especially if you keep doing it.

Stupid move (besides, of course, becoming a criminal in the first place):  When Wells Fargo refuses to reimburse Gilchrist on one of his fake accounts -- Gilchrist having claimed that someone "stole" the money using a fake name (when, in fact, Gilchrist was the thief), Gilchrist has the temerity to sue Wells Fargo in a civil action.

Uh, dude.  When you're committing massive bank fraud and embezzlement, it might behoove you not to stir things up.  By, like, filing a civil lawsuit.  Your goal is less attention, my man.  Not more.

Gilchrist ends up getting two years in prison.  Affirmed.  That's not much, my friends.  Makes embezzlement seem like a pretty good deal.  A lot better than traditional bank robbery, anyway. 

Knowing nothing other than the facts described above, I might well have put a thumb on the scale towards more prison time.