CRIME

SunTrust Bank subject of lawsuit after $82,000 in funds stolen

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MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md. (WJLA) - A family is pursing legal action against SunTrust Bank after one of its tellers unknowingly aided two thieves in stealing $82,000 in college tuition payments.

In August 2013, police say a family residing along the 20200 block of Darlington Drive in Montgomery Village, placed two checks, worth $41,000 each, in their mailbox. Detectives with Montgomery County's Financial Crimes Section say two men later opened the family's mailbox, and plucked both checks from inside.

"Oh my God," neighbor Lisa Winston said. "I get a pit in my stomach even thinking about it happening."

Investigators say the men then drove to a SunTrust Bank branch in Calverton. There they opened an account under the name "Maryland College Fund." Although the checks were actually written-out to the "Maryland Prepaid College Fund," a SunTrust teller deposited the money into the bogus account anyway. The thieves later withdrew all $82,000 from SunTrust Bank locations in Bowie and Largo.

Police have obtained high-quality surveillance photographs of the suspects making the initial deposit (watch video above), but no arrests have been made.

"Wow, $80,000," neighbor Betty Vargo exclaimed. "I can't believe anybody would put that size of a check in the mailbox. Still, I feel very sorry for them."

Vargo and her husband Al moved into Montgomery Village's Williams Range neighborhood in the late 1970s. Crime they say, has never been a concern.

"The negative impact is you have to have tighter security in the whole area," Al Vargo remarked. "There won't be a check ever put into our mailbox again."

On April 8, the family filed a civil lawsuit against SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta and Educational Systems Inc. of Greenbelt. According to Montgomery County Circuit Court documents, the family alleges the bank erroneously deposited both checks into the fraudulent account. However, as it currently stands, the husband and wife, 49 and 35-years-old respectively, are responsible for all $82,000 lost in the scheme.

"This would have enabled them to go to whatever their dream college might be, and not have to worry about FAFSA and financial aid," Winston said. "These parents who cared and worked so hard to make sure they could do that for their kids... I am so sorry!"

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspect is asked to contact Montgomery County's Financial Crimes Section at 240-773-6330.

For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of these suspects. Call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Tipsters will remain anonymous.

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