FINRA expelled a former Wells Fargo registered rep from the industry on March 30 for allegedly stealing funds from a bank customer account.

Jorge Jose Gonzalez, a branch manager for Wells Fargo in Hackensack, N.J., directed a subordinate to open a bank account for a purported customer who was not physically present at the time, an act that violated bank policy, FINRA claims. He supposedly instructed the employee to record in the bank's computer system that she had met the customer, when in fact she had neither met the customer nor observed Gonzalez meeting him. 

Gonzalez then allegedly provided the employee with a $5,668 check to fund the bank account. The check, which was issued by the IRS, was later connected to a fraudulent tax-return filing.  

Once the account was established, Gonzalez allegedly withdrew $5,000 without the customer being present at the time of the withdrawal, again breaking bank policy.  He personally withdrew the remaining funds from the account about two weeks later, FINRA said.

The chicanery was uncovered when the check that funded the account was returned to the bank unpaid, resulting in a loss to Well Fargo of $5,668. Gonzalez was able to evade scrutiny initially because he approved the new account in his capacity as branch manager, FINRA said.

Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.  In his settlement with FINRA, Gonzalez neither admitted nor denied the charges but consented to an entry of the regulator's findings.

During the bank's investigation, Gonzalez claimed that the customer had been present at the bank at the times of the withdrawals. But no one else recalled seeing the customer and the bank's video surveillance tapes did not corroborate Gonzalez's claim, according to FINRA.

Gonzalez worked for Wells Fargo from May 2009 to July 2014, when he was terminated, according to his BrokerCheck report. He had previously been with Wachovia Bank for four years, which was acquired by Wells in the middle of the financial crisis.

Anthony Mattera, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, declined to comment on the matter.

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