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Friday, April 26, 2013

Chula Vista, California Banker at Wells Fargo Branch Charged With Defrauding Bank and Customers

A Chula Vista banker was charged with defrauding Wells Fargo and several of its customers by stealing and laundering about $775,000 from Wells Fargo customer accounts, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Ricardo Adolfo Benavente III faces 80 felony counts, including bank fraud, embezzlement and aggravated identity theft. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment today.

According to the indictment, Benavente, a banker at a Wells Fargo branch office in Chula Vista, used his access privileges at the bank to move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the accounts of Wells Fargo customers into accounts he controlled.

The indictment further alleges that in many instances Benavente laundered the stolen funds in order to disguise the fact that he had stolen them.

Between April and October of 2009, Benavente stole the funds from the accounts of four Wells Fargo customers, according to the indictment.

Benavente, 27, allegedly funneled the stolen funds through various Wells Fargo accounts that he created and controlled, and which he had opened in the name of fictitious customers expressly for the purpose of conducting a scheme to defraud.

In one case, Benavente allegedly funneled stolen funds through a PayPal account that he had set up in the name of one of his victims, in order to disguise the fact that the money had been stolen.

Benavente then used the PayPal account to direct the funds to his own bank, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that in furtherance of the fraud scheme, Benavente stole and used the names and account numbers of his various victims in order to create the appearance that the transactions were being conducted by the customers themselves.

Benavente also created a trail of fraudulent bank instruments, such as withdrawal slips and cashier's checks, which he used to steal money from his victims' accounts and direct those funds to accounts he controlled, the indictment alleges.

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