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Woman fights bank to reclaim stolen money

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Dec 07 2012 12:48:38 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 07 2012 07:51:41 PM CST

Woman involved in dispute with Bank of America.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

(FRIDAY) Pamela Brooks questions Bank of America's check security procedures after, she said, the bank failed to stop $15,000 in forged checks police say were stolen by her roommate.

Brooks said the bank apparently didn't look at Corban Elmore's signature to see that it didn't match hers.  She also said the bank should have canceled the checks when it saw a flurry of them being cashed, because she rarely writes checks herself.

"They told me they don't verify check signatures," said Brooks.  "They assume that any check coming in is good.  Any check that they don't hear about from 30 days when it was written is your responsibility."

Brooks said the theft of her money wasn't her fault but feels the bank blames her for  it.  That's probably why the bank so far hasn't tried to sue Elmore to reclaim the money.

"We as taxpayers bailed these banks out not too long ago," she said.  "Bank of America was the biggest recipient of that.  Now they're refusing to work with me on this."

Brooks said she missed the 30-day deadline because she was ill with multiple sclerosis and Elmore hid her bank statements. 

In an email to KRDO NewsChannel 13 on Friday, bank spokeswoman Colleen Haggerty said the bank would contact Brooks to discuss the matter further.  Haggerty then released the following statement:

"While we may visually review a sampling of checks, banks use automated check processing procedures -- this is due both to the sheer volume of checks and compliance with expedited funds availability laws.  This is communicated to customers in the Deposit Agreement and Disclosures materials provided upon opening a checking account.  These Disclosures also set out the customers' responsibility for preventing and reporting forgeries and other unauthorized uses of checks or accounts.  Banks provide monthly account statements for customers to identify all items paid from an account.  It is the customer's responsibility to manage their accounts, checks and access to their accounts and checks by others.  If fraudulent activity is suspected or discovered, customers need to report it to Bank of America in a timely manner -- usually within 60 days.  We will research the matter to achieve appropriate resolution, which may include partial or full reimbursement to the customer depending on facts and timing of notifying the bank. "

(THURSDAY) A Colorado Springs woman said she feels betrayed by a man who claimed to need help but ultimately was arrested twice on suspicion of theft.

Pamela Brooks, 54, said she was roommates with Corban Elmore, 38.  Elmore was arrested last month of suspicion of burglary but recently was arrested again.  He's now accused of identity theft, theft and forgery.

Police said Elmore forged more than $15,000 in checks and a debit card from Brooks between late August and early November.  According to court records, Elmore also took a $2,000 diamond ring from Brooks that later was returned to her.

"I'm not a dummy," said Brooks.  "I checked this guy out.  He had no criminal background.  He actually, legitimately used to work for NASA.  That was all true.  I don't know why he chose my watch to self-destruct on."

Brooks said she met Elmore through friends in California.  She let him stay in her home because he wanted to move back to the city to reconnect with three of his five children.  She said she also loaned him $10,000.

Brooks suffers from multiple sclerosis and said Elmore took advantage of her to obtain her checkbook and debit card.  She said he lied about having a job, and took some of her pain medication.

"He got up in the morning, put on a suit and went off to work," said Brooks.

After his first arrest on burglary charges, Brooks said she paid his bail because he explained the arrest was a misunderstanding about a car he obtained from the friends in California.

"I didn't know about any of the rest until a neighbor told me he'd been arrested for burglary," said Brooks.

The situation became worse, Brooks said, when Elmore hid letters from her bank warning her about possible identity theft.  As a result, she said the bank -- Bank of America -- refuses to reimburse her for the money she lost.

"That was all I had," said Brooks.  "I was trying to be a good person."

Two online efforts have begun to help Brooks.  A petition seeks to convince the bank to reimburse Brooks.  It set a goal of 300 signatures and had 245 as of Thursday night.

A second website is trying to collect $5,000 in donations to help Brooks pay bills.  As of Thursday night, $4,000 had been raised.

Brooks also has a son, 25, who is recovering from a stroke and she is helping to care for him.  She says she's more disappointed in Elmore than angry.

"It's been the worst year of my life, without any question at all, said Brooks.  "There's not going to be any holidays here this year."

If you'd like to sign the petition for Brooks, visit: http://signon.org/sign/tell-b-of-a-to-pay-this.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=73268

If you want to donate to her fund, visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/282648?c=home

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