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Leader of Wells Fargo criminal fraud ring sentenced to seven years in prison

Wells Fargo scandal
A Wells Fargo bank branch in downtown Los Angeles.
(Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images)

An Inglewood man convicted of running a bank fraud ring that pilfered more than half a million dollars from Wells Fargo bank and its customers was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison Thursday.

Prosecutors said Ronald Charles Reed, 70, who pleaded guilty in March to federal bank fraud charges, recruited several employees at Wells Fargo branches and paid them to steal customer information, including account and Social Security numbers. Reed then gave that information to “runners” who, using fake IDs, went to tellers and were able to withdraw $580,332 from 75 customer accounts.

Many of those withdrawals were made at branches in California, though some were made at branches in Alabama, Nevada and other states. The fraud ring operated in 2013 and 2014. Reed and the Wells Fargo employees — who also pleaded guilty — were indicted in 2015, accused of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The FBI and U.S. Secret Service, which investigated Reed and the bank employees, are still looking for the three runners who participated in the scheme.

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Reed, who had been convicted several times before —  including for making, using or selling fake credit cards — was sentenced to 89 months in prison in federal court in Los Angeles and ordered to pay restitution to Wells Fargo. Reed’s public defender had asked for a shorter sentence, saying the Vietnam veteran and father of six did not deserve to die in prison.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet said the bank cooperated with the investigation and that “keeping our customers’ information and assets safe is a top priority.”

The sentencing comes as the bank tries to right itself in the wake of a much larger scandal involving bank workers.

Local and federal regulators in September fined the bank $185 million after finding that thousands of bank workers had improperly used customer information to open unauthorized accounts and meet onerous sales goals. 

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james.koren@latimes.com

Follow me: @jrkoren

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