Man accused of stealing 37 doormats from Manhattan banks


Here's a sad profile of William Footman, an inmate at Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward who is believed to be behind at least 37 robberies in which the doormats were stolen from banks. Footman admits to some of these, but says that the rest weren't him; he claims to have worked at a rug factory, to have a wife and 15 daughters, and to have made ends meet by selling stolen bank doormats to bodegas. But there's a clear impression that he's a fabulist, possibly delusional, and that he's really in a bad place, despite the weirdness of his crimes.

Read the rest

Unsealed court-settlement documents reveal banks stole $trillions' worth of houses


Back in 2012, the major US banks settled a federal mortgage-fraud lawsuit for $95,000,000. The suit was filed by Lynn Szymoniak, a white-collar fraud specialist, whose own house had been fraudulently foreclosed-upon. When the feds settled with the banks, the evidence detailing the scope of their fraud was sealed, but as of last week, those docs are unsealed, and Szymoniak is shouting them from the hills. The banks precipitated the subprime crash by "securitizing" mortgages -- turning mortgages into bonds that could be sold to people looking for investment income -- and the securitization process involved transferring title for homes several times over. This title-transfer has a formal legal procedure, and in the absence of that procedure, no sale had taken place. See where this is going?

The banks screwed up the title transfers. A lot. They sold bonds backed by houses they didn't own. When it came time to foreclose on those homes, they realized that they didn't actually own them, and so they committed felony after felony, forging the necessary documentation. They stole houses, by the neighborhood-load, and got away with it. The $1B settlement sounded like a big deal, back when the evidence was sealed. Now that Szymoniak's gotten it into the public eye, it's clear that $1B was a tiny slap on the wrist: the banks stole trillions of dollars' worth of houses from you and people like you, paid less than one percent in fines, and got to keep the homes.

Read the rest

Kickstarting a detailed plan to rob five banks simultaneously

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1591139000/under-black-carpets-kickstart-a-bank-heist

Artist Ilona Gaynor produced a piece called "Under Black Carpets" that took the form of detailed plans for robbing five banks near LA's One Wilshire building, simultaneously. Gaynor worked with the LAPD and the FBI to produce a collection of fictional forensic evidence from these robberies, which were then exhibited. Now, Gaynor's trying to raise £20,000 to take the exhibit to tour the show. £30 gets you a cool-looking book, and £40 gets you the book and a tee.

WAIT, ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO ROB THESE BANKS?

No. This is strictly a design / art project.

The exhibition of the work will be presented to the audience as a police investigation, detailing the remaining evidential material after the event has taken place, something that could be argued or challenged as material (evidence) in a court of law. The work itself will take form as sculptures, architectural models, technical drawings, films and photography. It will open as a solo exhibition (Special Project) at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale opening from Sep 12th - Dec 15th 2013.

Under Black Carpets, kickstart a bank heist. (via Beyond the Beyond)

Breathtaking ATM hack nets $45M in hours

The US District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York has indicted eight residents of Yonkers for allegedly participating in a global ATM heist that involved removing the withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards, cloning them, and then getting confederates all over the world to hit ATMs at the same time and clean them out. The DA says that the scam netted $45M worldwide; $400K in NYC alone. One of the indicted defendants was murdered in the Dominican Republic last month.

The first heist, which occurred on December 22 and targeted debit cards issued by the UAE bank, dispatched carders in about 20 countries that rapidly withdrew funds in more than 4,500 ATM transactions. In New York City alone, prosecutors said, the defendants and their co-conspirators withdrew almost $400,000 in some 750 fraudulent transactions from more than 140 different ATM locations. It took just two hours and 25 minutes for the New York cell to complete, prosecutors said. A second operation commenced on February 19 withdrew about $40 million in 36,000 transactions worldwide. In just 10 hours, the New York group allegedly withdrew about $2.4 million in almost 3,000 ATM transactions.

The operation exploited weaknesses in the way banks and payment processors handle prepaid debit cards, which usually are loaded with a finite amount of funds. These cards are often used by employers in place of paychecks and by charitable organizations to distribute disaster assistance. Once the accounts were hacked and the limits removed from accounts, cards were cloned and sent to cell groups throughout the world to make fraudulent withdrawals. Additional details of the operation are available in a press release outlining the charges.

A similar heist in 2011 got $13M in one night.

How hackers allegedly stole “unlimited” amounts of cash from banks in just hours [Ars Technica/Dan Goodin]

TCF bank penalizes kid with $4.85 in his account by charging him $234.95 in fees in two weeks

A young man left $4.85 in his TCF Bank account. TCF assessed him a $9.95 "maintenance fee" for not having enough money in his account. Then they charged him for being overdrawn by $5.10 (ten cents more than he was allowed by their rules). In less than two weeks, they'd assessed so many fees and penalties against the account holder that he owed them $229.10. All for having the temerity to have a low-balance account. The bank said it was his own fault for not having more money. Finally, they relented -- only after being contacted by a newspaper.

"I try to raise my children the right way and if my son would have overdrawn this account because of spending money he didn't have we would have made him take care of it," she said. "But what TCF did is not right. Money is tight right now and if this is their way of making money, they need to be stopped."

Ganziano said the entire goal of setting up the account was to teach her sons how to be smart with their money.

"When they get zapped this way, why would they trust a bank?" she said.

Bank fees that overdraw teen's account have mom seeing red

Chase exec: we tricked naive borrowers into taking out subprime loans

An award-winning Chase vice-president has gone public with accusations that his bank deliberately tricked naive borrowers into taking out high-commission loans they could never pay back (his team wrote $2B in loans during the subprime bubble), putting the lie to the narrative that subprime was about greedy borrowers taking money they knew they shouldn't:

One memory particularly troubles Theckston. He says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans.

These less savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up.

Theckston, who has a shelf full of awards that he won from Chase, such as “sales manager of the year,” showed me his 2006 performance review. It indicates that 60 percent of his evaluation depended on him increasing high-risk loans.

In late 2008, when the mortgage market collapsed, Theckston and most of his colleagues were laid off. He says he bears no animus toward Chase, but he does think it is profoundly unfair that troubled banks have been rescued while troubled homeowners have been evicted.

A Banker Speaks, With Regret (via Naked Capitalism)