- Vladimir Nesterenko, still fighting to get his $52,800 back, says of Wells Fargo: “This scheme inside their walls — they don’t want to bring it outside.”
Vladimir Nesterenko left the Ukraine 28 years ago following the Chernobyl disaster, one of the worst nuclear power plant failures in history. The 1986 explosion and fire flung radioactive particles into the sky and across the western USSR and Europe, causing cancers and deformities that are still emerging today.
Nesterenko escaped this Level-7 meltdown and landed in America, where he lived in a Mid-Wilshire apartment and worked as a technician at a Long Beach refinery. He began paying off a vacation home in Las Vegas, where he’d planned to retire with his wife. But four years ago in 2010, a $52,800 counterfeit check written to a nondescript furniture store on Vermont Avenue would forever change his life.
“I want these people who were involved in this fraud to be accountable for what they did,” Nesterenko says. “It highly impacted my life, my family, my health, my lifestyle.”
Nesterenko was among more than 75 victims who had their financial information stolen by Armenian Power member Andranik Aloyan, says former Asst. U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada.
There’s a big difference, however, between Nesterenko and the other victims: Wells Fargo still hasn’t reimbursed the 68-year-old for most of the $52,800 spirited out of his checking account.
His effort to get justice from the bank morphed into a battle much more profound — a crusade to clear his name. The cash taken from his account was more than half of his total savings, leaving Nesterenko unable to pay the mortgage on his Nevada dream home. With the property went his health.
An early letter Wachovia sent on behalf of Wells Fargo about his fraud claim is dated June 23, 2010. The letter, obtained by L.A. Weekly, challenges his statement that the check was counterfeit or unauthorized, stating, “We have reason to believe that the Check is authorized and that you benefited from the underlying transaction causing the issuance of the Check.”
Wells’ letter cites “careful review and investigation of this claim” and implies that Nesterenko is either lying about the check being fake, or that he was in on a scam to steal money from himself.
That’s not what the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Burbank Police Department, the FBI and other experts say. They say Nesterenko is a victim in this story.
“From everything we uncovered, he’s completely innocent in all this,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Estrada, who prosecuted Armenian Power gang member Aloyan earlier this year, says.