Head of fraud ring targeting Wells Fargo accounts gets seven-year sentence

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A California man behind an identity theft ring that stole more than half a million dollars from Wells Fargo Bank WFC.N customers was sentenced on Thursday to over seven years in prison, U.S. prosecutors said.

Ronald Charles Reed, 70, of Inglewood, recruited Wells Fargo employees to obtain customers’ personal data, including birthdates, account and social security numbers, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

Reed gave the information to people who impersonated customers at Wells Fargo branches in California and other states, and made cash withdrawals of $580,332 from 75 accounts.

Reed, whose criminal history includes a conviction over counterfeit credit cards, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and identity theft in the Wells Fargo case in March, prosecutors said. He was also ordered to pay restitution.

“Innocent victims of identity theft deserve the protection of the criminal justice system, and this sentence attempts to achieve that goal,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in the statement.

The former bank employees also pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Authorities are seeking the identity of the runners who impersonated account holders, the statement said.

In September, Wells Fargo paid $185 million to settle with California prosecutors and regulators over pushing customers into costly accounts they did not need or request.

The bank said at the time it had fired 5,300 employees over the past five years for “inappropriate sales conduct.”

Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Richard Chang