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A 'nickel-and-dime' crime almost 50 years ago gets 68-year-old employee fired

By Ed Payne, CNN
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Thu August 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The crime was committed nearly 50 years ago, court records show
  • Richard Eggers uses a cardboard dime in pay washing machine
  • Wells Fargo Home Mortgage fires him after a background check
  • "The whole thing was too absurd for words," Eggers says

(CNN) -- Sometimes life can turn on a dime. Just ask Richard Eggers, a former Wells Fargo employee.

The 68-year-old Eggers was fired by the company's home mortgage division in West Des Moines, Iowa, in July for a petty crime he committed nearly 50 years ago. He got caught using a cardboard cutout of a dime to run a laundromat washing machine when he was 19.

Officially, the crime is called operating a coin changing machine by false means, court records from 1963 say.

"It was silly and stupid," Eggers told CNN affiliate KCCI-TV. "I am not terribly proud of it, but, it doesn't warrant a termination a half a century later."

Wells Fargo says it's following federal laws laid down by the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIC). They're designed to weed out employees guilty of identity theft and mortgage fraud.

"Wells Fargo is ... bound by US Federal law ... to protect our customers and their personal financial information from someone who we know has committed an act of dishonesty or breach of trust -- regardless of when the incidents occurred," Vickee J. Adams, vice president of external communications, said in a statement.

"It is uncomfortable, but it is a law that we have to follow," she said. "We have the responsibility to avoid hiring or continuing to employ someone who we know has a criminal record."

Wells Fargo says between May 2011 and May 2012, it performed thorough background checks on all its team members, regardless of when they were hired. The screenings were the same as those required for new hires.

"The whole thing was too absurd for words," Eggers told KCCI. "They had their instructions and there was nothing I could change, but I wanted to let them know I didn't accept it as a logical and reasonable business practice."

Wells Fargo says Eggers has been put in touch with an FDIC case manager to work on steps to "make him eligible for reemployment."

Leonard Bates, an attorney representing Eggers and three other employees who used to work for the company, said he may file a class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo and the FDIC.

"Common sense tells you that Mr. Eggers and his 49-year-old crime was not the downfall of the mortgage industry in 2008 and 2009," Bates told KCCI.

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