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ID Theft Victim Serves Time for Someone Else’s Crime

Carlos Gomez didn't know his identity had been stolen until federal agents arrested him for crimes he didn't commit.

He spent two weeks in federal detention and another seven months under house arrest for money laundering before federal agencies acknowledged they had the wrong man, according to reporting by the Miami Herald.

An employee of Wachovia Bank, where Gomez had an account, embezzled $1.1 million from other bank customers and then used a checking account he opened in Gomez's name to launder some of the stolen funds.

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In March 2011, a Miami-Dade police officer came to Gomez's home asking if he had called the police and then checked his ID to verify his name and address.

Gomez and his wife had not called and were "unsettled" by the visit, Gomez told the Herald.

A week later, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents knocked down Gomez's front door and arrested him, the Herald reports.

After two weeks, he was freed on $100,000 bond on the condition he only leave his home during the day for work. Gomez is a U.S. citizen who was born in Colombia.

Gomez was charged with participating in a money-laundering conspiracy and structuring withdrawals from his checking account to avoid detection by bank regulators. These offenses carry up to 20 years in prison.

After his lawyer told him the feds had a solid case, Gomez set out to prove his innocence.

He passed a polygraph test and went to a local Wells Fargo branch to get copies of the fabricated paperwork that allowed Wachovia employee Noel Abraham Mendez to open accounts in his name.

Using old bank statements and pay stubs, he was able to prove which bank activity belonged to him.

In August 2011, he shared that information with prosecutors.

Months later, Mendez and his accomplices were convicted and the charges against Gomez were dismissed.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office built its case based on information provided by Wachovia.

Now Gomez is suing the bank, which has since become a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, claiming it was reckless with his confidential account and failed to provide accurate information about him to federal authorities, the Herald reports.

“This is an unfortunate situation, and Wells Fargo regrets that it is in litigation with Mr. Gomez,” bank spokeswoman Michelle Palomino told the Herald.

“We don’t believe the facts we have and the applicable law support the claims made regarding the role of Wells Fargo and the circumstances that preceded his arrest.”

The courts have rejected the bank's request to dismiss Gomez's suit. The case will go to trial if it's not resolved in mediation.

“I blame the bank because they started the whole thing,” Gomez told the Herald. “They were so clueless about what they did. They should have called me in the first place to verify my account and signature and none of this would have ever happened.” 

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