Ex-U.S. Bank employee is guilty in 2nd bribery case

Wilbur Tate III, also suspected of taking bribes from a Florida debt agency, awaits sentencing.

A former U.S. Bank employee suspected of taking bribes from a debt collection company accused of defrauding Minnesotans is awaiting sentencing in another bribery case involving a different debt collection firm.

The man, Wilbur Tate III of Dacula, Ga., last fall pleaded guilty to accepting $24,000 in kickbacks from a debt collection agency while an assistant vice president at a U.S. Bank unit in Ohio in 2008 and 2009.

Those kickbacks surfaced during a federal investigation of Oxford Collection Agency, a defunct debt collector that had offices in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Tate, who is 49, couldn’t be reached on Tuesday. His lawyer declined to comment.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank also declined to discuss Tate, who left the company in 2011. The firm no longer sells charged-off debt to firms that then try to collect it for themselves.

U.S. Bank still hires other firms to collect debt on its own behalf. In a statement Tuesday, a company spokeswoman said the company has been reviewing third-party relationships across all business areas. “Specific to collections, we do outsource to third parties, but we have limited the number of agencies we work with and tightened our processes,” spokeswoman Teri Charest said in the statement.

Tate surfaced in a new case Monday involving United Credit Recovery, an Orlando, Fla., company that is one of the country’s largest consumer debt buyers.

That company’s owner, Leonard G. Potillo III, allegedly paid Tate $1 million for details on U.S. Bank’s auctions of debt it had charged off, according to a federal indictment of Potillo that was unsealed Monday.

The document did not name Tate directly, instead referring to a U.S. Bank employee called “W.T.” A person familiar with the matter said that W.T. is Tate, though it was unclear whether he will be charged in the case.

United Credit Recovery has been under fire in Minnesota and other states for allegedly cooking up fake bank affidavits to use in collecting debts it has purchased from firms like U.S. Bank. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued United Credit Recovery last year.

Swanson said Tuesday that she has not seen bank bribery allegations in its other debt buyer cases. She said she’s been concerned with a general “lack of due diligence” in how portfolios of private financial information are handed to third parties.

In the original case involving Tate, executives of Oxford Collection Agency initially gave him expensive cigars, court documents show. That turned to outright bribes around mid-2008, according to the documents, when Oxford executives began stashing $2,500 to $5,000 a month for Tate in Graycliff cigar boxes, covering the cash with cigars and mailing them to Tate’s home at the time in Mason, Ohio. Tate sometimes called Oxford executives asking about when his next payment would come.

Tate moved to Georgia after leaving U.S. Bank, and authorities arrested him there in 2013.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. He is out on bail and still waiting to be sentenced, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut. Tate was supposed to have been sentenced in February, but it was delayed following the filing of a sealed motion and hasn’t been rescheduled.

Oxford, meanwhile, fell hard. CEO Peter Pinto and five other executives pleaded guilty in relation to a fraud scheme involving the pocketing of portions of the debt Oxford was collecting for clients. The scheme cost Oxford’s clients more than $10 million, authorities said.

 

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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