Where did all this money come from?
That’s probably the first question that Phelon Davis of District Heights, Maryland, asked himself when a homeless man shuffled into the Wells Fargo branch in Georgetown where Davis worked as a teller three years ago and tried to deposit a garbage bag full of cash.
His next question was probably “do you think he’d notice if some of it went missing?”
Instead of helping the customer deposit the money into his account, Davis instead decided to take advantage of the situation, setting up a fraudulent second account under the customers’ name and eventually stealing more than $185,000 from the man, according to the Washington Post.
The 29-year-old bank teller stole more than $185,000 from a homeless customer who tried to deposit a garbage bag full of cash at a Wells Fargo branch in Georgetown.
In a deal with prosecutors, Davis pleaded guilty this week to one federal felony count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Deepening the intrigue surrounding the story, the court filings didn’t name the man, or furnish an explanation as to how he came to possess such a large sum of cash. It describes the man only as a “street vendor.”
Here’s WaPo with more:
The victim was unnamed in court filings but was described as a homeless street vendor and longtime Wells Fargo customer who had more than one account that had gone dormant because of a lack of activity.
Court filings did not identify the customer or say why a homeless person would have a large amount of cash in a bag when he showed up at the M Street NW branch where Davis worked. Outside the courtroom, Davis’s attorney, Bruce Allen Johnson Jr., said he also did not know how the individual came to have the cache of cash. “That’s the million-dollar question,” Johnson said.
In plea papers, Davis acknowledged that the customer had “thousands of dollars of cash” that he wanted to deposit in October 2014, but he lacked identification. Davis told the customer where to get ID documents and a Social Security card, and also noted the customer “had a surprisingly large balance with the bank,” according to a signed, three-page statement of the crime.
Soon after the customer tried to deposit the cash, Davis fraudulently opened a new account by forging the customer’s signature, set up an ATM card, personal identification number, email address and online logon that he controlled.
He initially funded the account with $3,000 from one of the customer’s other accounts, according to WaPo.
Slowly over the next two years, Davis transferred $177,400 between the customer’s accounts, withdrew $185,440, and transported at least $5,000 withdrawn from ATMs in DC to his home in Maryland – triggering the federal charge.
The customer remained oblivious to the fraud, as he could only see the balance by checking on his account at an ATM.
Davis used the stolen money for a down payment on his home, to pay off personal debt, and fund vacations in Aruba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
As part of his plea, Davis agreed to pay back the stolen money, and Assistant US Attorney Kondi J. Kleinman said he would likely face a sentence of 18 to 30 months under federal guidelines. However, the sentencing judge has discretion to assign a longer, or shorter, sentence.
“Did you, in fact, take money from an account as Mr. Kleinman described?” U.S. Magistrate Robin M. Meriweather asked in the Thursday plea hearing.
“Yes, ma’am, I did,” said the soft-spoken Davis.
Davis’s attorney, Johnson, said outside of court that “he greatly regrets the decisions he made and is dedicated to doing everything he can to make it right, including restitution. He is putting everything aside to repay the money and do what he can to repair what he’s done to his name, his reputation and to the victim.”
WaPo reports that a date for Davis’s sentencing hasn’t been set.