Banks have general rules to protect customers from financial scams and phony investments, but the 10News I-Team revealed how a local man lost his retirement after a mistake a San Diego bank admitted.
Troy Ott told the I-Team he was duped into buying a $74, 000 Chevrolet Silverado, a $50, 000 Hummer and a $67, 000 Chevrolet Tahoe.
"Well, I'm exhausted, it's just taken everything out of me, " said Ott.
The 69-year-old retiree said the vehicles were for Stephen Crawford, his wife and their business partner.
"They said they needed it for the business imagine, " said Ott.
Their business was Urban Growth Organics in Oceanside, an agricultural product distributor. Ott thought he was an investor, but now he believes he's a victim.
"I don't know how anyone could be so poor in mind and spirit and so outrageously crooked, " said Ott.
Crawford, the business owner, never made promised payments on the vehicles, according to Ott. The cars were sent back to the dealer.
"They've virtually destroyed my credit, " said Ott.
Ott's bookkeeper noticed thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Ott said Crawford convinced a local Bank of America to link Urban Growth Organics' business account to Ott's personal credit. It was something Ott never authorized.
"They were charging like crazy, " said Ott.
Tens of thousands of dollars were withdrawn; Bank of America allowed multiple overdrafts and then charged fees on them.
Ott said his money went to a new house and tuition for Crawford's children's preschool. He told the I-Team he tried to interest Oceanside police or Vista sheriff's deputies in his case.
"They wouldn't do anything for me … said, 'It's your baby, you've got to take care of it, '" said Ott.
The I-Team thought Ott's case was interesting, especially when the business closed and the owners disappeared.
The I-Team tracked Crawford to a home in Vista, but he did not answer the door.
However, Crawford called 10News and said, "I have a feeling you're calling about an investor, something along these lines … um, and I’m absolutely more than willing to get together."
He said he would meet with an attorney and call back, but he did not.
"From what you've shown me, everything about these case smacks of being criminal in nature, " said Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood.
Greenwood pointed out a 3-year-old law that banks must report suspected financial abuse of elders -- a law with spotty compliance but a law nevertheless.
"When I discuss this with banks that's the first thing they will say, 'It's none of my business to ask them why they want this cash, ' and I'm saying too, 'Right it is; it's absolutely your business, " said Greenwood.
The I-Team obtained proof in writing of Bank of America acknowledging mistakes. A bank manager admitted Troy Ott "has recently been defrauded" and "some things were done by Bank of America associates that shouldn't have been." The case was referred to the bank's internal security.
"It's basically destroyed my retirement, " said Ott.
A representative for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said a detective spoke with Ott and gave him advice on how to proceed with repossessing the cars involved.
Oceanside police directed Ott to file a criminal complaint in San Diego because that is where he was living.