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Bomb Joke Turns Sour at Wells Fargo

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) - Bank employees had a man arrested because he jokingly asked, "What do I have to do, plant a bomb in your bank?" to get money from his trust fund, the man claims in court.

Dale Leroy St. Claire sued Wells Fargo Bank, branch manager Nima Farokhirad and employee Stephen P. Rodriguez, in Kern County Superior Court.

St. Claire became the trustee of the Doris Townsend Trust when Townsend died on Sept. 8, 2012.

About a week later, St. Claire says, he went to a Wells Fargo bank to submit a copy of her death certificate and all paperwork to show that he was trustee of her trust. The employees who took the documents told St. Claire that the bank would place a 40-day hold on the funds, and that he could withdraw money from the trust accounts starting on Oct. 18, according to the complaint.

When St. Claire returned on that date, he claims, defendants Farokhirad and Rodriguez told him he could not withdraw money because he did not have the right forms on file.

He asked them what forms he needed, but they refused to tell him, according to the lawsuit.

Frustrated, St. Claire says, he asked, "'What do I have to do, plant a bomb in your bank?'" to get the money to which he was entitled as trustee.

Farokhirad and Rodriguez immediately called 911 and police arrived quickly, the complaint states.

St. Claire says he talked with the officers, who "were inclined to drop the matter, but then arrested the plaintiff after talking with defendant, Nima Farokhirad, who was the manager ... and who insisted that the plaintiff be placed under arrest."

The officers handcuffed St. Claire and booked him in Kern County Jail though they had no warrant and no reason to believe he had committed a crime, the complaint states.

St. Claire claims Farokhirad and Rodriguez knew he was not serious about bombing the bank because he "sat quietly in said branch office talking to their bank personnel while waiting for the police to arrive." He says the bank officers "acted with deliberate malice and oppression" and insisted on his arrest to humiliate him.

After being falsely arrested, he says, he had to use trust money to post bail of $25,000, "at a cost of $2,000," another $9,500 to hire an attorney to represent him-costing the trust a total of $11,500. He also suffered damage to his reputation, "shock and injury to his nervous system" and mental anguish.

He wants the $11,500 back and punitive damages for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Michael R. Young with Young & Nichols.

Calls to the Wells Fargo branch were directed to a number for Freedom Mortgage.

Julie Campbell, Wells Fargo's communications manager for Bakersfield, declined to comment.

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