Split Deposit: Deposit where the customer presenting an endorsed check receives part of the amount being deposited in cash. Split deposits are a major source of teller errors and potential fraud in customer statements. -Barron's Banking Dictionary
TWO BLOCKS FROM the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, I parked a block away from the bank and walked into the tallest building on the Coast, and up the escalator and grabbed Another Hot Grand before breakfast. I forced down the little fear I knew was good, it keeps you on your toes, I learned long ago, that I was so sporadic and switching jurisdictions so fast, that they were not looking for me to walk into their bank, and the Show didn't start until I handed them the checks and Deposit Slip. As long as I stayed calm, everything went well, and I was able to detect any hint of cops, I would see it in their eyes.
STANDING IN LINE AT THE BANK in a little strip mall along Highway Ninety in Biloxi, Mississippi, this was probably the fiftieth bank I robbed, and I got too comfortable. I used the same bank account I had swiped off a mailbox right next to the front door of an old historic home, in a wealthy part of Gulfport. I had already called the bank to verify a one thousand dollar check, pretending to be a local merchant, so I knew there was that much in there. Monday morning at eleven forty, I strolled into the Main Branch of the Hancock Bank and Trust, the most prominent bank on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in downtown Gulfport, Mississippi.
As usual, I stopped at an island and pretended to fill out a Deposit Slip and organize my four or five checks I already had prepared, as I try and get a feel for the place. Banks, especially Main Office Banks, are like Emergency Waiting Rooms, and all that marble and brass and Mahogany provided a heightened sense of awareness and level of importance in the air. Most of these Tellers were making little more than Minimum Wage, and rolling out of bed every morning they wondered if they might die for someone else's money that day.
I TOOK MY TIME like I was endorsing all the Checks right there, as I was really waiting for a particular young attractive female Teller to become available. I knew from experience I don’t want an old schoolmarm broad, no high maintenance broads with Three Hundred dollar hairdo and poorly fitting expensive clothes. I diffidently don’t want a male, young or old or in between. I want a hot young chick bored out of her mind handing out other people’s money all day, and looking for Mr. Right Checkbook! I timed it, so I was standing there in a thousand dollar suit, expensive haircut, tanned and talented and turned on the megawatt smile the moment we made eye contact.
SHE WAS GORGEOUS, probably less than three years out of high school and knew I was way out her league, but she could hope. I slid the five personal checks all made out to the account holder, and the Bank Deposit Slip (I should have had my own if this was really my Account), and I complimented her hair or eyes or smile and leaned in the window and let her get a good gander at that ten thousand dollar Rolex President. I literally saw her breath halted she was so impressed and probably would have been stuttering had she tried to talk. Didn’t even ask for identification! Think about it, who’s going to walk into the Main Office of the most prominent bank for a hundred miles in any direction, and slap down five checks totaling thirty-four hundred dollars and only wanted a thousand dollars bank, from an account that wasn’t theirs? She checked the account, verified there was plenty of money in there to cover any or all, of these checks, and the thousand dollars cash I was walking out with, what’s the problem?
This is the actual arrest I am writing about.
AS SOON AS SHE COUNTED out the new Benjamin’s in front of me for the second time, I asked her what my balance was. They never tell you. They always write it down on a piece of paper and slide it to you. I never even glanced at it and tucked it into my red leather valise and spun around and floated out of there heading straight for the beach. I was so surprised by the amount of money in the account I couldn't let it go. No wonder she was flustered; Seventy-five thousand fucking dollars! I probably walked in every bank on the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Houston, Texas, I never had an account this fat, and I couldn’t let it go.
I WAITED MY TURN and walked up and handed the mid-forties white female with brown hair and schoolmarm glasses a few checks and the Deposit Slip. As soon as she punched in the account, she got a Caution to Notify Manager on this account. She looked up at me and said, "I'll be right back," locked her drawer and walked over to who I am sure was the Branch Manager. I saw her show him the checks and indicate to me standing at her window. We were looking right at each other. I walked straight toward them, and as I got up to them, I said, "Just go ahead and deposit that, I am in a hurry," and walked right out the bank. I was parked way at the other end of the parking lot around the corner, but I never got out of the parking lot with the Branch Manager right behind me.
"Excuse me, sir," I need to talk to you. Is your name...?”
I immediately changed direction because I didn’t want to lead him to my getaway car and was heading right to a four or five bay Brake and Muffler Shop behind the bank. The Manager had attracted their attention, and they started to converge on me when I see a City of Biloxi Police, Black & White pull into the bank at a high rate of speed, sped right up to us, jumped out and grabbed me and face planted me right in the parking lot. Scuffed up dress shoes and suit and broke the band on my Rolex President.
THIS WAS MY FIRST FALL, my worst case scenario, caught red-handed right in the bank. I always trust my sense’s I developed from hitchhiking around the country. As soon as I meet someone, I look them right in their eye, and I get a sense of how this is going to go. A lot transpires when folks first lay eyes on each other, but I had absolutely no sense of impending doom when I walked into the Guarantee Bank and Trust Edgewater Branch at noon and got in line with a few construction workers ‘cashing payroll checks. I didn’t have any choice of Teller’s this time, it was the luck of the draw, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
I GAVE THEM A PHONY NAME for sure, but the National Crime Information Computer maintained by the Department of Justice would place my fingerprints from this arrest with my real half a dozen prior arrest, and know my identity. Before they had no more than a Key lying on the ground without a lock, and now they didn’t have the lock, but they knew what lock they were looking for. I never even dressed out into prison clothes and Buzz the Bail Bondsman from Pascagoula, Mississippi, just a few towns up the beach toward Florida showed up. We had seen each other thru other people but didn’t know each other, and when he showed up I told him I had five-thousand dollars in my apartment right on the beach, and if he would take me there, he could have it. And he did. Never showed up for court and never heard any more about it though when the Feds eventually captured me, and it was combined with my Rule 20 with the other five or six state’s I burned. California to New York and New Orleans to Memphis, everyone knows the more money you steal, the less time you do.
I WOULD SPEND THE DAY BEFORE driving all over town looking for rich people’s houses in every new town and doing recognizance as to where the banks and interstate system was. I had a stack of Shaklee Vitamin’s brochures lying in the back seat of the brand-new rental cars, as I discovered the better neighborhoods with mailboxes on their doors.
AFTER SPENDING THE NIGHT VISUALIZING all I had seen that day, I’d pick out two or three likely candidates in my mind, where I’d stop, what I would do; and the next morning it was Showtime. Get to bed early, wake up regularly and get dressed to the Nine’s, like I had an appointment with Destiny. Many times it went down just like I planned it in my mind. I would get out the Phonebook from the Hotel I was at and pick out all the banks I was going to hit and place the four or five checks and Deposit Slip, there in the phone-book, choosing the one farthest away and work back to where I was.
I WOULD GET BACK to the wealthiest looking neighborhood, and that was obviously Old Money and addresses that any seasoned Bank Teller will recognize. I cruise the whole area without stopping looking for two or three likely Bills being Paid. As soon as I see what I’m looking for, usually four or five envelopes in the Out Going Mail, usually cloth pinned to the in the slot in the front door. If there’s just one hanging there on the Mail Box waiting for the Mail Man, I won’t mess with it. Old Money people usually mind their own business. Someone across the street may see the one envelope missing and raise the alarm. I am apparently not a mailman. I looked like an Insurance adjuster or salesman. The first thing I look for is across the street to see if the neighbor’s living room windows are open or any activity at all, I will blow it right off. Down South it is so hot; people keep everything closed up to keep their air conditioning bill down. Next, if no one looked like they were home across the street, I’d pull into the driveway and walk up to the door real casual and pretend to ring the doorbell and swipe outgoing mail. I just want one, and The Water Bill was Green. The phone bill was Yellow, Cable bill Grey, etc. I wouldn’t spend Ten minutes in the neighborhood the next day, and as soon as I scored, I was on the interstate and the other side of town before even if someone did see me, a report got inked.
BRAND NEW RENTAL CAR with a paper license plate laying down upside down in the rear window, they didn’t have a license plate number to report, I’m heading for the Hampton Inn or something real nice downtown to practice their signatures, because when I Deposit several thousand dollars in to “My,” Account, that’s the only thing they are going to check, the Signature Card. After exercising and lying by the pool, I’d order room service and get down to business. I would turn the Television to a station with “Snow,” or “White Noise,” and use it as a projector to isolate the checking account holder’s signature, place a blank sheet of paper over the Check taped to the screen. I would trace it real deliberate like a kindergarten kid just learning to write to get the feel of it. I would endorse a few of them right in front of the Teller before sliding the small pile of Checks from several different Banks. In the Memo ________, I would write “Rent,” or “House Payment,” and it appeared I had collected monthly Rental and property I owned payments. I had prepared everyone the night before in different Inks, different handwriting styles, and some typed out. Usually at least four or five and a Deposit Slip they thought they just saw me stop at a banking aisle and fill out. Which I did, but was only scribbling stuff and switched them all in my small Red Leather valise I carried. When I pulled them out again in front of the Teller, it was the ones I had prepared the night before. Dressed to the Nines, $50 haircut and a million dollar smile and straight up bamboozled them, and it was Fun!
BANK TELLER’S ARE’NT HANDWRITING EXPERT’S, as long as the first Letter of each name is close, I’m bringing home the Bacon. Although I have had a Teller or two calls another Teller over to help her guess right…
I AM A BIG BELIEVER IN THE NUMBERS. You might get away with something a time or two, but the numbers demand that if you keep doing it, you will get caught. Right about the 30thbank, everything changed for me; not only was I getting good at it, but I was also getting physically comfortable doing it. But I always wondered, even more so now; WHERE DO YOU GET THE BALLS to bounce a bad check in a bank? ”I was so terrified I was going to jail, I just knew it, the number’s said it, defrauding thirty federally insured banks in less than six months, I was hella Lucky, Hella Good or both… As usual pushing my mind to the limits of being terrified, a few hits of pot after getting decked out, cleaned my face and mustache so they couldn’t smell it on me, before leaving the motel on the beach, drove a few miles to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, See The Real Drug Store Cowboy.
THE BRANCH BANK set by itself off Highway 90 and there was no place to park my getaway car or block away in case everything went south like I just knew they would, any minute now. Once I knew the Account was good, usually by just calling the bank and asking for “Check Verification,” told them I was Radio Shack need to verify a Check for $1200, because I am not going to the bank for less than a Grand. By late afternoon I was tired of running in and out of Banks and started doing the Drive Thru Tellers. Four or Five beautifully prepared personal Checks made out to the Account I just stole that morning. I’m going to pull $10,000 out of this account before closing today, and some of the Drive Up’s are Open until 6:30, and before I jump on the Interstate and get a couple of hundred miles from me and all these newly defrauded banks, I’m throwing everything away to do with that account or that town, not a Burger King Receipt.
THE BLANK CHECK’S I STOLE off the same Mail Boxes when people order Checks from their bank, they come in the Mail, usually don’t fit in the box. The ones I do keep will be stashed over the sink in the drop ceiling at the Ramada Inn, which I will Reserve a day in advance before I come back to use them again. I had some stashed in Cities all over the US before I was done. When I did the Drive Thru’s, I gave them exactly 4:40 seconds before I drove off, but never had too. Anyway, I drove up and parked right out front like everyone else, walked in, in a nice suit, no tie, “Don Johnson,” or Standard Men’s Haircut, I looked like a Cop, because I could never “Score,” in this get-up. Opened the door for a housewife leaving, I walk into the small branch office with Two Tellers and a Drive-Thru Operator and me, empty. I had a brief vision of me rushing out of there and driving away and getting pulled over before getting on the Interstate a mile away. I go to the Island where I pretended to use one of their Deposit Slips, lay out the four or five Checks where they can see me, and start listing them: $1,400, $900, $700, $1,050. And on the bottom: -$1,000. Meaning I want One Thousand Dollars back in Cash. I leave the Total blank; she can write it in if she wants. It’s called a Split Deposit and one of the most common transactions in banking, and the rifest with errors, according to the American Banking Association.
I'M TERRIFIED, I JUST KNOW MY NUMBER’S UP, and it’s this young pretty young woman’s first day on the job. I know they are not going to check the Checks I am trying to Deposit, they check the Account Balance, and let the Deposited Checks run their course. So according to the Deposit Slip and Check’s I just handed to her, actually I slid them to her out of the valise, because I prepared them last night with surgical gloves on. The ones she thought she seen me preparing were still in the valise. She mentioned she just started and never did such a complicated transaction, and as I started walking her through it, the Teller next door who was obviously training her, came over and showed her to do it, and apologized for any inconvenience…
Copyright 2016 by Mark Anthony Given
All Rights Reserved
All my story's:
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