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Man convicted of robbing Sovereign Bank twice sues PNC Bank

June 04, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Zeller
Zeller

A former Hagerstown man serving 20 years for two bank robberies was in Washington County District Court Monday, having sued another bank for not preventing a woman from emptying his bank account.

David Zeller, 59, formerly of the Dagmar Hotel, filed a claim against PNC Bank alleging it failed to properly monitor his account after he was incarcerated. He told District Judge Mark D. Thomas that unauthorized withdrawals from his account had been made, including withdrawals from automatic teller machines in Colorado.

Zeller told Thomas that he had given his power of attorney to a woman while he was in prison so she could transfer money from his bank account to his account at the Washington County Detention Center while he was being held for trial.

Thomas ruled in favor of the bank, however, noting Zeller granted the woman his power of attorney and the bank could not be held responsible for her actions, which were allowed under the power of attorney.

Zeller was convicted in 2011 of robbing the West Washington Street branch of Sovereign Bank on March 9 and 23, 2010. He was captured outside the bank after the second holdup and was found to have more than $60,000 in a backpack.

Now a Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate, Zeller filed a claim in December asking the court to have the bank pay him more than $3,000, district court records said.

“The bank ... allowed my money to be stolen from my account and should be held accountable,” Zeller wrote in an affidavit accompanying the civil complaint.

“I had an account at that bank for over 10 years,” Zeller told Thomas. “They just allowed anyone to take anything they wanted.”

Zeller told Thomas he contacted Hagerstown police to conduct a theft investigation and questioned Detective Anthony Fleegal during Monday’s trial.

“I couldn’t determine if a crime was committed,” Fleegal told the court.

The woman who had Zeller’s power of attorney made five large withdrawals from his account, but deposited most of it in Zeller’s detention center account, Fleegal said.

Due to the passage of time, there was no way to determine who made ATM withdrawals from Zeller’s account, Fleegal said. The detective said he contacted the woman, who is now in Colorado, by telephone.

A power of attorney is a “legal clone” of the person who grants it, Thomas told Zeller. The person designated power of attorney has the authority to conduct financial transactions, even to get an ATM card, he said.

“You are the one who makes the choice as to whether they are reliable and trustworthy,” Thomas said.

Third parties cannot be expected to determine the trustworthiness of a person designated a power of attorney and cannot be held accountable, he said.

Zeller could file a lawsuit against the woman, Thomas said.

“The claim has to be made against the lady who had the power of attorney,” Thomas told Zeller.

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