Bank Manager Helps Thwart $25K Con Of 80-Year-Old

A manager at Chemical Bank in Midland, Michigan, grew suspicious when he saw Marion Case, an 80-year-old customer, withdraw $25k from her account last December. Case told him she was going to mail it to someone who would then pass it along to her son. The manager, Carl Ahearn, “remained suspicious. He followed her as she walked to the nearby post office, where Case bought an Express Mail envelope addressed to a man in New Jersey. Ahearn shared his concerns with postal officials, who opened an investigation and arrested a man Monday for fraud.”

Elan Saraf, 45, of Newark, N.J., a flight attendant with Continental Airlines, was arrested Monday and charged with mail fraud as he landed in New Jersey on an international flight. Two other current or former Continental flight attendants are identified as having been involved in the alleged fraud, but have not been accused of wrongdoing.

“The investigation is still ongoing and the case has the potential to be much larger,” said Wylie Christopher, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Detroit.

“We’re just grateful that citizens are willing to go above and beyond to make sure those who do things wrong pay for their actions.”

“Midland banker’s suspicion thwarts $25,000 scam of 80-year-old” [Detroit News] (Thanks to dguralnick!)
(Photo: frankieleon)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    And he’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling bank manager.

  2. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    OK, so there’s one guy in this country who doesn’t suck. +1 for USA!

  3. sean98125 says:

    Looks like Continental found yet another fee to charge. It’s just a $25,000 disembarkation fee. The woman’s son was on the plane and needed the cash to get off.

  4. GearheadGeek says:

    But did the bank fire him for interfering with a crime in progress?

    • seanhcalgary says:

      @GearheadGeek: I’m pretty sure that one’s just a given.

    • LeChiffre says:

      @GearheadGeek: Hey numnuts, why would he get fired? What a moronic statement. If the authorities were not aware of the crime itself, the bank employee was not interferring ( your sufficient & necessary is backwards). And as citizens, he (we) have a duty within a reasonable time and standard to get involved without putting himself (ourselves) or others in a dangerous situation.

      • Aphex242 says:

        @LeChiffre: Are you high or just completely unable to sense sarcasm?

        Ever heard those stories of 7-11 cashiers / Walmart Greeters fired for fighting back when getting robbed? Clearly this post is a nod to those types of stories.

        Maybe you should relax a little before name calling.

        Lastly, as citizens, we have no legal duty to offer any kind of assistance. Period. For any reason. Not saying that’s a good plan, but you’re factually wrong there, too.

        • Trai_Dep says:

          @aphex242: How disillusioning it is to finally meet a Bond villain, only to discover how far from the onscreen reputation he actually is.
          I’ll bet that Rosa Klebb is, in reality, a paraplegic.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @LeChiffre: Ah, yes… ample evidence of your stupidity along with your complete lack of a sense of humor. If you’ve been reading these pages for long, you’d have seen several articles in the past where companies have fired their employees for stopping thieves and shoplifters. I was making a joke that apparently shot far over your head. It may be that one of us is moronic, but I don’t believe I’m the one.

      • heismanpat says:

        @LeChiffre: Your reply is worthy of failblog.org. I may just have to submit it.

      • trujunglist says:

        @LeChiffre:

        wooooooosh

        you must be new here

  5. econobiker says:

    What, a bank employee with actual investigative smarts?

    How did this guy manage to get by the tests for allowing customers to deposit fake checks and immediately withdraw “extra money” to send back to the person who is supposed to be buying a lamp from their craigslist ad?

  6. eirrom says:

    There are still some decent people in this world, and they even work in a bank! Who would of thunk it?

  7. intellivised says:

    I grew up in Midland, MI and know this bank well… I remember getting candy from the drive through tellers and them always being really nice to me every year when I brought in my birthday check from my grandfather.

  8. SacraBos says:

    Okay, so he saved the 80 year-old part of his life’s savings, and returned that $25K deposit to his bank. Double Win.

  9. Tiber says:

    Great job by the bank manager, but I have to worry about that woman. She’s already been scammed before, so I think this is one of those times when the kids should petition a judge to take control of her finances.

    The first time was one of those “You’ve won $1 million! We just need some processing fees from you” scams, which I can understand why someone trusting might fall for that. This though, involved her mailing the money from Michigan to a man in New Jersey who will fly it to her son in Oklahoma. Even within the context of the scam, that makes absolutely no sense.

  10. dosdelon says:

    How about that, a bank that looks out for the interests of it’s customers!

  11. John Hance says:

    I’d really like to shake that guy’s hand. Everyone wins in that situation…except for the poor guy in Jersey.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The thing is, if the customer was doing something that was perfectly safe and wasn’t being scammed, you guys would have said that the manager was overstepping his bounds and being nosy. The headline would have been something like “Bank Manager Stalks Customer”.

  13. Homerjay here for OxyClean! says:

    Chemical Bank is real??? I just thought it was a made up name used in Seinfeld episodes…. Like Acme was to rocketry.

  14. EdnaLegume says:

    unfortunately, as a result of this story, Marion Case is now on scammers alert as their Numero Uno target. lol

    poor lady. Me thinks someone needs a power of attorney.

  15. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Holy Crap. That man is a hero.

  16. INsano says:

    Wow…a bank employee that actually looks out for the customers! Take note everysinglefreakingbankinthiscountry. That bank manager is AWESOME. As in, fills one with awe. I’d love to have an account there.

  17. gparlett says:

    Note that this was NOT one of the big national banks… I’m cynical enough to think this would never happen at BoA, Citi, etc.

    • sponica says:

      @gparlett: i think it depends on where you are though….if you’re in a small town or neighborhood branch of a large city, where YOU KNOW your customers, you’re more likely to intervene

  18. cmdrsass says:

    Mr. Saraf is on Facebook: [www.facebook.com]

    • EdnaLegume says:

      @cmdrsass: I wish I could unsee that.

    • rpm773 says:

      @cmdrsass: Oh, my. That picture is quite unsettling. Whether it’s the real guy or not.

    • trujunglist says:

      @cmdrsass:

      I wonder if that’s the same guy. I realize his name is somewhat unusual for Americans, but maybe not in wherever for all I know. It’s quite tempting to harass him.. but I suppose that spending many years in jail is probably punishment enough.
      Maybe I could just make it say “You got served!” and leave it at that. Pretty ambiguous…

  19. PsiCop says:

    When I was a teller at an S&L in the late 80s, I spared several customers from swindles. One of the more dramatic was when an older customer, whom I knew, came in and asked to take out $20k in cash from a CD that had come due.

    Now, this branch was one in which hardly any customer ever walked out with more than a $500 cash withdrawal, so this raised many alarm bells. I asked her several times if she wouldn’t prefer a bank check (there was no charge on them at the time, but even if there had been, I’d have waived it), but she said no, repeatedly. Without being too invasive I tried to weedle out of her why she wanted so much money in cash. She first said she was taking it to another bank, and I told her that the other bank … whichever it was … would be happy to accept a bank check from us.

    When I realized she wasn’t going to tell me what was going on, I told her flat-out that there was no good reason for her to walk around with that much cash. None. And that if anyone wanted her to do so, it couldn’t be for any good purpose. I had no idea, at that moment, that I’d hit the nail on the head … I’d just been trying to convince her not to walk around with all that cash.

    Eventually she admitted what was going on … there was, it seems, a bank examiner waiting outside for her to bring the cash. Apparently they wanted to check to see if we would actually give her the full $20k. The reason she was being secretive was — she said — because this was a “test” and if she told us what was going on, it wouldn’t work.

    Needless to say, we called the police, because this was the “bank examiner scam” at work. By the time we looked outside the guy had gone, only moments before we went looking for him … but we did have footage of him on security-camera tape. He had kept his head turned away from it at all times, but the cops were able to identify him anyway, and he was arrested a couple days later. (It’s possible he did the same at other banks so the police had already built a “profile” on him.)

    We found out later that he’d picked this customer’s CD renewal-notice letter, that our S&L had sent her, out of her mail. Then, armed knowledge that she had a large CD with us that was renewing, he’d asked her to “help out” with this little “test.”

    There were other occasions when we protected our customers … such as the time a young man who’d stolen someone’s passbook came in to withdraw from it; we strung him along for about 10 minutes until the police could arrive and arrest him. And the time we prevented a son from scamming his way into his elderly father’s safe-deposit box, also stalling him long enough for the cops to arrive.

    Not to mention many others.

    I say this not to brag, but to explain that, at many places, this is just what the employees do every day. And yes, I expect that this happens at big institutions and small ones alike. The S&L I once worked for was acquired by a large commercial bank, and after a couple more mergers, is now part of BoA. A few of my co-workers stayed behind and are now working for BoA. I have no doubt they’ve continued to do exactly the same for all their customers.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @PsiCop: Nice job there. Have a beer on me the next time you are in my town. Which I wont reveal over the internet.

    • econobiker says:

      @PsiCop: No, not alot of banks care anymore. There is some amy ladie who always rants on these threads about how some bank let some lady clean her account(s) out without so much as checking a driver’s license…

    • skycrashesdown says:

      @PsiCop: Excellent post! I currently work at a small bank that does this sort of thing for customers all the time. We have a lot of elderly customers, and we try our hardest to keep an eye out for them without crossing the bounds of propriety.

      On a smaller scale, one thing we see all the time that we’re constantly helping our customers with is those checks you get in the mail from companies with small print on the bank in the endorsement area saying that by depositing this check, you agree to enroll in such-and-such a program and be charged a certain amount each month. I’ve never yet had a customer that I pointed that out to that didn’t immediately have me shred the check.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @PsiCop: More people like you should be around.

  20. rpm773 says:

    @undefined: @Homerjay here for OxyClean!: @thegirls: But the Seinfeld Chemical Bank was a different bank…and was acquired by Chase in 1996

  21. IronCrow says:

    Sounds like I might have actually found a trustworthy bank, or at least one that hires trustworthy people.

  22. consumerd says:

    Hmmm, pretty good scoring today.

    Old lady (can’t really fault her here as she is older):0

    bank manager: +5 good job!

    guy in new york: -2 aka “epic fail!”

  23. oneandone says:

    The investigation is still ongoing and the case has the potential to be much larger.

    Hopefully not, but I wouldn’t be surprised. This is just a hunch, but based on his name & occupation, I’m guessing he’s Israeli (or from an Israeli family) and there are some crime rings with Israeli components. (Continental’s one of the few airlines that fly from the US to Tel Aviv directly, and they leave from EWR). I always get a bit sad when I see one of my countrypeople make the news for the wrong reasons, and it’s no secret that Israelis in the U.S. tend to make the news for being parts of crime rings.

    Awhile back it was for ecstasy smuggling([www.haaretz.com]), now some other mess it seems. Not representative of everyone who’s here doing good things, but, like I said, sad when someone gives a relatively small group a bad rep.

    • nagumi says:

      @oneandone: בדיוק מה שאני חשבתי. עוד ישראלי מניאק :)

  24. P_Smith says:

    Time and again you hear about and see people who’s attitude is, “I can do nothing and get away with it, so I will do nothing.” It makes a refreshing change to see someone in a company act like a human being, and he deserves a round of applause.

    I do have one concern, though: What if it had been a teller, not a bank manager, who had noticed the fraud? Would the teller have had the authority or permission to leave the bank and follow the elderly person? Would a bank manager have listened to the teller and done something about this? I suspect that one key reason the manager did it is because he’s not accountable to those around him in that branch.