The former employee, 29-year-old Phelon Davis, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of interstate transfer of stolen property this week after a 2014 encounter with a homeless customer who tried to deposit $185,000 in cash at a Wells Fargo branch in Washington, DC, the court documents said.
The customer, who was not named but was described as a homeless street vendor, had existing accounts at the bank, but he lacked the identification documents he needed to deposit the $185,000 worth of cash he had been carrying in a garbage bag. The Post said. The man was turned away.
The homeless man "had a surprisingly large balance with the bank," The Post reported, citing a document related to the case. Davis was accused of forging the customer's signature to fraudulently open a Wells Fargo account in the customer's name — including an online login, an ATM card, and personal identification number, all of which Davis controlled. He funded the account with $3,000 of the homeless customer's money.
The customer had no access to email or the internet, according to The Post, and thus had no knowledge of the fraudulent activity, the newspaper said.
Court documents showed that, over the course of two years, Davis transferred $177,400 of that customer's money between accounts, and withdrew $185,440, taking $5,000 across state lines, the court documents said. Davis used some of the stolen cash as a down payment on his home, took several vacations, and paid some debts.
Davis has been ordered to pay back the stolen money and could face up to 30 months in prison.
It appears Davis fraudulently opened the accounts during the same period in which Wells Fargo employees were accused of fraudulently opening millions of accounts in customers' names between at least 2011 and 2015. It was unclear whether Davis' activity was related to that scandal, which exploded in 2016 and eventually drove then-CEO John Stumpf out of the company. Wells Fargo in July agreed to shell out $142 million to settle the matter.