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NewsChannel 3 Investigates: Goleta man fights bank to clear his name

nc3 investigates newschannel 3 tipline investigation

GOLETA - Most people expect their bank will back them up when a crook steals their credit or debit card and uses it. In other words, the bank won't hold you responsible for those erroneous charges.

But, Goleta resident Donnell Dixon told NewsChannel 3 his bank treated him like the crook despite video evidence that proved his innocence. He's been trying to clear his name ever since.

"I don't like people saying I did it. Why would I report something I did. That doesn't make any sense," said Dixon.

It all started on August 24, 2017. Dixon filled up his gas tank at World Gas on Calle Real in Goleta. A few hours later, he realized he didn't have his debit card and went back to World Gas to get it. But Dixon said the cashier told him they didn't have his card. Two days later, someone started using his debit card. So, Dixon and his wife, Diedre, immediately went to their Wells Fargo branch.

"So you're sitting there with the Well Fargo people at the branch and as you're sitting there, charges start coming in?" said NewsChannel 3's C.J. Ward. "Yea, one came in as we were talking and so they shut my card down like immediately. They knew for sure it wasn't me. I'm sitting there," said Dixon.

"We were just going to let it go and let the bank handle it for us or help us," said Diedre Dixon.

The Dixon's say Wells Fargo refunded the $550 to them for the bogus charges.

"So, I thought the case was over. But two weeks later, I get a letter from Wells saying they thought it was me or someone in my family who did it," said Donnell Dixon.

"It was just infuriating. It felt kind of flip, you know, that they would just then take the money right out of our account and consider it no big deal," said Diedre Dixon.

The Dixon's say Wells Fargo took the $550 back, causing a lot of stress and hardship for them. They went back and forth with the bank trying to prove they didn't do it and eventually called the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office in December. A deputy investigated and discovered the Dixon's debit card was used at nine business. The biggest charge was at Home Depot in Goleta.

"The deputy contacted Home Depot. He was able to obtain the surveillance video, he reviewed the video and what he saw was a Middle Eastern or Hispanic male and not an African-American male and his determination was that the person using the debit card was not Mr. Dixon," said Kelly Hoover, Public Information Officer with the Sheriff's Office.

The video shows a man wearing a dark shirt and hat, pushing a cart and holding, what appears to be, a coffee cup. He also has a beard. Sheriff's investigators looked at this video very carefully and determined it was not Donnell Dixon.

Sheriff's records indicate the deputy told Wells Fargo officials they had to request a copy of his report. So, you would think that would be enough to clear Donnell of any wrongdoing.

"But they're gonna stick to their guns. They thought it was me," said Dixon.

Nothing happened. And then in January disaster hit Montecito. All Sheriff's resources were focused on saving lives and dealing with that tragedy. Months passed, Wells Fargo still had their money and the Dixons decided to call the NewsChannel 3's Tipline.

"I know they would love for me to go away, but I'm not going to go away," said Donnell Dixon.

We did some research and contacted Wells Fargo. We wanted to know what proof the bank had that Donnell was lying to them. A bank official declined to release any information, but he did agree to talk with Sheriff's officials if NewsChannel 3 set it up. The two sides spoke and determined that Wells Fargo never requested a copy of the Sheriff's report that cleared Donnell back in December. Once the bank got a copy of the report, Wells Fargo gave the Dixon's their $550 back and apologized.

"So that's why I really want to thank you for helping me. I don't know what I would have done. I had the police department on it, but they still didn't want to budge on it, until you got involved. And so thank you very much. I really appreciate it," said Donnell Dixon thanking NewsChannel 3.

Wells Fargo released the following official statement for this story:

We are committed to building better every day, and it’s important for us to understand and address any customer concerns. Providing quality customer service and reliable assistance are top priorities at Wells Fargo. We investigate all fraud claims thoroughly. While we cannot provide details on specific customer issues due to customer confidentiality, we can report that Wells Fargo has resolved the issue for our customer.

To protect from fraud and identity theft, we recommend that customers:

  • Report lost or stolen checks and debit or credit cards immediately.
  • Monitor their transactions online regularly and report suspicious charges promptly.
  • Set up account alerts so they are notified of online purchases, ATM withdrawals, when their username is retrieved, and more.
  • Always keep their debit and credit cards in a safe and secure place.
  • If they receive a replacement debit or credit card, cut up and discard your old card.

For more information, we encourage customers to visit Wells Fargo’s Fraud Information Center or talk to a banker.

NewsChannel 3 Investigates / Santa Barbara- S County

C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter.