7 On Your Side

Bank confusion turns into $10,000 problem

Friday, March 04, 2011

The common banking practice of making a deposit turned into a $10,000 nightmare for a Bay Area man and his daughter. Their money disappeared.

Myron Hinrich of Petaluma helps support his daughter, Anne, while she studies film-making at USC.

"She's struggling in graduate school; she needed to make a rent payment," Hinrich said.

Anne was low on cash so Hinrich deposited a $10,000 check into Anne's account at Wells Fargo Bank. However, what happened after that came as a complete shock.

"They said the check was fraudulent, they canceled the account and they didn't want to see her again," Hinrich said.

Wells Fargo refused to give Anne the $10,000. Instead, the bank abruptly closed her account and told her to go away. The only explanation? The bank claimed the check was a fraud.

"I didn't know what to think, I didn't' know why they would think it's fraudulent," Hinrich said.

Indeed, it made no sense. The check had already been cashed by Wells Fargo the day it was written and the money had been taken out of Hinrich's account.

"It's the strangest thing I've ever seen, you couldn't find anybody to talk to," Hinrich said.

Wells Fargo would not even speak with Hinrich about what happened, citing privacy laws. The bank also would not speak with Anne, saying her account no longer existed.

"It was a Catch 22; I can't get the money because I don't have an account with them and my daughter can't get the money because they closed her account," Hinrich said.

The way Hinrich saw it, his money had been stolen. So he reported it to the federal comptroller of currency, which makes sure banks obey the law.

"That didn't work either; they accepted Wells Fargo's letter saying I didn't have an account with them therefore they couldn't help me," Hinrich said.

The federal agency closed the case. No one would listen.

"This is $10,000 we're talking here, so that's when I had the idea to call 7 On Your Side," Hinrich said.

7 On Your Side showed all the documents to Wells Fargo and requested the bank deliver a check to Hinrich's daughter in Los Angeles right away.

"She went into the bank and said she wasn't going to leave until she had the $10,000," Hinrich said.

Myron says his daughter sat in the bank in Los Angeles for two hours until finally the check was in her hand.

Wells Fargo says it only needed a letter of indemnity from Westamerica Bank stating the check was valid. Once Hinrich provided that letter, the bank returned the money to the family.

Wells Fargo did not explain why the check was deemed fraudulent in the first place and still cannot explain how it could take $10,000 out of Hinrich's account nearly a year ago, yet still question the validity of the check. The bank claimed it had been holding the money in a separate account all this time, which was news to Hinrich.

The comptroller of the currency declined to comment about its role in closing the case.

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wells fargo, 7 on your side, michael finney
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