, Newburyport, MA

November 15, 2012

Bank owes falsely accused woman an apology

Newburyport Daily News

---- — If one of the biggest banks in the country is going to accuse someone of being a thief, the bank should take special care to be certain it is right.

That didn’t happen when Bank of America pointed its finger at a 23-year-old, single mother from Haverhill. The next thing Ginesis Gil knew, her life had been turned upside-down.

Four weeks ago, an Amesbury woman had her pocketbook stolen from her car while she worked out at the Latitudes Sports Club in Bradford. In the pocketbook was her wallet containing her Sovereign Bank debit card. According to police, the woman contacted the bank, which told her that two withdrawals for more than $500 were made — one of them at a Bank of America ATM in Haverhill.

Bank of America provided police with a photo from the ATM transaction, which was then released to the media in hopes of someone identifying the suspect. The photo was published in The Daily News of Newburyport and The Eagle-Tribune .

Almost immediately, people identified the woman in the photo as Gil, who has a distinctive tattoo on her right upper chest that was clearly visible in the photo.

But someone at the bank had made a mistake. The photo of Gil released to police was not the photo taken of the transaction with the stolen debit card. It wasn’t even the same ATM.

Last week, police cleared Gil of any wrongdoing after she proved the withdrawal she had made at an ATM was from her own account.

But by then the damage had been done. Gil’s family and friends were calling to ask if she had seen the picture in the newspaper. Some asked if she was the thief. Her young son asked if she would have to go to jail.

“It was horrible,” Gil told reporter Mike LaBella. “I couldn’t take my children trick-or-treating and when I went to Market Basket to pick up a few things, people were staring at me. And when I brought my children to the bus stop, other moms were talking about me.”

Haverhill police have acknowledged the mistake.

“It was an unfortunate mistake and we acknowledge that as a result of the error she had her picture put in the paper,” Deputy police Chief Donald Thompson said about Gil.

But Bank of America had less to say. Spokesman T.J. Crawford referred questions about the investigation to police.

“As a general rule we don’t comment on law enforcement matters,” Crawford said.

Gil has been nothing but cooperative in this matter. She and her lawyer, Thomas Torrisi of Methuen, met with Haverhill police soon after her photo was published, bringing with them documents to show she had made at withdrawal from her own account around the same time as the felonious transaction was made.

Torrisi says all Gil wants now is to “re-establish her otherwise unblemished reputation in the community.”

One helpful step toward that goal would be for Bank of America to acknowledge its error and apologize publicly to Gil. The bank owes her at least that much for the trouble it has caused her through sheer carelessness.

“We don’t comment” isn’t nearly enough.