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MANAGER GUILTY OF BANK FRAUD SCHEME LED TO HUGE LOSSES.

Byline: Lisa Mascaro Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - The former manager of a Wells Fargo Bank branch has been convicted of bank fraud for his role in a car loan scheme that ultimately led to more than $1 million in losses, authorities said Monday.

Scott Michael Spellman, 37, was manager at the banking center in the Pavilions supermarket on Lindero Canyon Road when, authorities said, he figured out a scheme being run by would-be customers and demanded a cut, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Borthwick.

``It's not your typical insider scheme in that it didn't necessarily require inside help to pull off the scheme. What happened here was Spellman figured out the scheme and said, 'Hey, I want in on this,' '' Borthwick said.

Spellman, convicted last week following a three-week trial, faces up to 30 years in federal prison on each of the four counts of bank fraud, authorities said. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 10.

Deputy federal public defender David McLane said he disagreed with the verdict.

``It was a hotly contested trial,'' he said.

Borthwick said Spellman had been processing loan documents when he discovered the fraudulent nature of loans being submitted by a used-car dealer in Downey, who authorities said was using stolen identification for loans.

``Spellman figures out what's going on. He then decides that he wants a cut of the proceeds,'' Borthwick said.

Borthwick said Spellman demanded money from those running the scheme, saying he would take the case to the FBI, and an agreement was made that he would receive $5,000, plus $5,000 for loans processed.

In all, prosecutors say Spellman was aware of five fraudulent loans between September and November 1996 and that he processed four additional loans - each worth about $35,000.

Prosecutors said two participants in the scheme, Kevin Neal and Lance Tonelli, each pleaded guilty previously to three counts of bank fraud.

Borthwick said Neal operated Neal's International in Downey and provided the paperwork for the vehicles. He is to be sentenced June 6. Tonelli, also known as Michael Lance Vengar, cashed the checks from Spellman, authorities said. He is to be sentenced April 17.

Overall, the scheme led to more than $1 million in losses involving other bank branches from late 1995 to December 1996, Borthwick said.

Borthwick said the FBI was tipped to the scheme after Vengar had been arrested in an unrelated incident and cooperated with authorities.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 7, 2000
Words:405
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