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James Brooks • Aug 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Nolan Gray - Lee Talbert photo.


It was a college student’s dream come true. Nolan Gray had just opened a checking account at SunTrust Bank and wasn’t surprised when he received a seven-day hold letter. The surprise was that the hold was on a deposit to his account of $165,000, many times his modest opening balance.

While many people would consider this a windfall and run off on a spending spree, Nolan wasn’t raised that way. He’s a senior political science major at East Tennessee State University and intends to go on to law school, so he read the fine print and called the office in Atlanta, where the letter originated.

“They didn’t seem worried about it, although they said they’d never heard of this happening before,” he said.

He checked his account on Wednesday and the funds were in his account and available. He called the branch in Johnson City where he opened the account. “They seemed to be happy to know the problem lay with the loss prevention department in Atlanta and advised me to shred all the documents,” he said.

“I joked with them and asked if I could keep $20,000 as a reward for being an honest guy,” Gray said. “They didn’t seem to think that was funny.”

A call to an officer at SunTrust Bank at first brought about an assertion that Gray was confused. When asked if he were denying that funds were deposited into a wrong account, the officer said, “I’ll have to talk to my branch manager and call you back.” He did not return the call.

Besides being an honest guy, Gray is smart enough to know that if something seems too good to be true, then it isn’t true. He had not sent his bank account number to someone in Nigeria offering to deposit large sums to his account, and he had not responded to Internet spam telling him he had won some lottery that he never entered.

The hold letter also has a disclaimer: “Remember, it is your responsibility for any deposited checks that are returned unpaid and for any other problems concerning your account, even if you have already withdrawn the funds from your account.”

Reflecting on his brush with good fortune, Gray felt a bit disappointed.

“I’ve been a loyal SunTrust customer for over five years, and nobody bothered to thank me for reporting this. All they asked was that I shred the documents, which of course I didn’t do. It seems like they could have at least said ‘thank you.’”

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