LOS ANGELES – The organizer of a bank fraud scheme in which Wells Fargo Bank employees stole customer account data – information that was used to impersonate scores of customers and steal well over a half-million dollars from their accounts – was sentenced today to 89 months in federal prison.
Ronald Charles Reed, 70, of Inglewood, was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Judge Fernando M. Olguin. In addition to the prison term, Judge Olguin ordered Reed to pay $580,332 in restitution to Wells Fargo Bank.
Reed pleaded guilty in March 2016 to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Reed, who is also known as “Disco Ronnie,” admitted that he worked with former Wells Fargo employees and “runners” in a scheme that caused Wells Fargo to suffer approximately $580,000 in losses.
Reed recruited four Wells Fargo employees in 2013 and 2014, asked them to access the bank's computer records, and then purchased personal identifying information belonging to bank customers. The stolen information included dates of birth, account numbers, driver's license numbers, and social security numbers.
Reed provided this stolen information to the runners. Using fake IDs, the runners impersonated bank customers and made substantial cash withdrawals from the customers' accounts. In some cases, the runners also used the customer's account to deposit worthless checks and receive cash back. The fraudulent transactions were made at Wells Fargo branches across Southern California and in other states, including Minnesota and Nevada.
Reed also admitted that in 2014 he purchased personal identifying information for accounts at U.S. Bank. Unbeknownst to Reed, the information he bought was for undercover accounts supplied by a confidential informant who was working with law enforcement.
Over a 13-month period that ended in mid-2014, Reed's scheme caused runners to withdraw approximately $580,332 from 75 accounts belonging to Wells Fargo customers and $12,000 from two undercover accounts at U.S. Bank.
“This defendant has a lengthy criminal history, much of which involved fraudulent schemes and identity theft, including a counterfeit credit card case in this district that led to a sentence of nearly five years in federal prison,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In the process of committing these crimes, he stole the identities and bank account funds from innocent people, creating unnecessary havoc in their lives. Innocent victims of identity theft deserve the protection of the criminal justice system, and this sentence attempts to achieve that goal.”
“Fraud ringleaders should be deterred by the strong hand of justice delivered in today's sentence. We are proud to collaborate with our FBI partners by aggressively pursuing criminals attempting to exploit our nation's financial infrastructure, ” said Rob Savage, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Los Angeles Field Office.
“Mr. Reed mercilessly exposed sensitive information, violating his victims personal and financial security and leaving them vulnerable to additional fraud while convincing others to use their official position at the bank to steal from their employer,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners at the Secret Service and investigators at financial institutions to detect insider crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
The former bank employees who worked with Reed have all pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing. The investigation into the runners – who remain unidentified – remains ongoing. Anyone with information on any of these individuals should contact FBI Special Agent Watkins at (310) 477-6565.
This matter was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service. Wells Fargo Bank and U.S. Bank fully cooperated during the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christina T. Shay of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
USAO – California, CentralUpdated January 12, 2017
Central District of California DOJ / 17-007 / January12, 2017