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'Robin Hood' lied to help bank customers

Bank VP charged with fraud for making it look as if clients were paying their loans on time. Bank may have lost $5.5 million.

By Teresa Mears Aug 17, 2010 2:16PM

The charge was bank fraud, but the perpetrator wasn't in it for the money.

 

Jeffrey Gonsiewski, a Chicago-area bank vice president, falsified the records of dozens of loans held by people who had become delinquent to make it look as if they were paying on time.

What was in it for Gonsiewski, whom The Chicago Tribune said fancied himself a sort of modern-day Robin Hood? Nothing, unless you want to count a jail sentence.

 

Gonsiewski, who pleaded guilty last week to one federal count of bank fraud, says he was just trying to help the bank's customers. These days, that's a lot more unusual than fraud. Post continues after video.

According to an FBI news release, this is what Gonsiewski did:

… between September 2004 and February 2009, Gonsiewski caused the bank to issue unsecured and undersecured loans by falsely representing that the loans were secured by adequate collateral even though he knew that the collateral was either nonexistent or insufficient to secure the loans. He also changed the terms and conditions of loans to conceal that payments were overdue; fraudulently caused the bank to cover checks totaling more than $2 million written on overdrawn accounts; and created false loan documents, including forging signatures.

And this is what Gonsiewski told the judge:

I thought I was helping the customer stay afloat, so to speak, as the times got bad and that economically it would improve and everything would go back to a normal situation and those loans would be paid off, times would get better, other property would sell, the bank would not take a loss.

Gonsiewski's actions -- involving about 100 loans belonging to about 50 people -- cost First Security Trust & Savings Bank of Elmwood, Ill., at least $5.5 million, the FBI said. According to the Tribune, the bank has assets of $220.6 million. The company president is Rocky Wirtz, whose family owns the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and Wirtz Beverage Group.

The scheme is likely to cost Gonsiewski between four and seven years in prison plus restitution. The maximum sentence for the charge is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

 

We don't condone fraud, of course. Mortgage fraud is serious business. The Mortgage Fraud blog notes that it is currently tracking 1,847 criminal sentences with restitution of more than $2.4 billion ordered. Fraud costs everybody money.

 

Still, we can see why Gonsiewski is seen by some as a "Robin Hood" character. While we don't want our bankers to cheat and lie for us, we could like them to give to the poor customers just a little bit of service.

Wouldn't it be great to find a Robin Hood banker who would go out of his way to make sure his institution didn't repeatedly lose documents, as they all seem to do if you want a mortgage modification or a short sale?

 

How about a Robin Hood banker who made sure his customers weren't subject to sneaky fees but know exactly what each bank service costs up front?

 

Or how about a Robin Hood banker who would clearly disclose all the terms and costs of a mortgage and really make sure the customers got the best deal?

 

It's no wonder that banks, mortgage companies and credit card firms are among the least trusted institutions in the United States, according to a Harris poll.

 

You can see how Gonsiewski might draw some public support.As a commenter writing as "Cameris" told the Tribune:

If First Security Trust & Savings Bank can see its way to letting this man off and putting him back in charge, I promise that I will move my current and future banking business to them. They have one hell of a PR vehicle untapped here. A bank that actually cares for their customers, like an ice cube in hell!

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