Chase reimburses customer ripped off by its teller. Big banks good?


Maybe big bad banks aren't so bad after all. Recently it was discovered that a teller at JPMorgan Chase devised a scheme to fleece 86-year-old Jessie McDonald out of over $300,000 of her savings. The teller, Melindathee Hill, met McDonald while working for the bank, and offered to help her pay her bills. Hill allegedly also helped herself to some of the money, and used it for jewelry, school tuition, and home insurance. The theft was discovered by the bank in August 2007, and they fired the teller, who hasn't yet been charged criminally (although she is still under investigation).

McDonald is under the care of the Cook County guardian's office, and they asked the bank to reimburse her for what was stolen. It took some time, but the bank is now agreeing to give McDonald over $300,000 to reimburse her for her losses.

I am applauding the bank for doing this, especially since it may not have been their responsibility to do so. Even though Hill met McDonald through the course of her employment with Chase, it seems as though this theft happened outside of her job. If that's the case, I don't really know if Chase is responsible for the theft. But I do think it is commendable that they took the high road and are giving this woman her money back. During a time when all we seem to hear are complaints about banks, isn't nice to hear a good story about one?

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.