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A Wild West scenario: heist at Wells Fargo

by Björn Schöpe

February 5, 2015 – We feel reminded of the Wild West era when hearing of what happened in San Francisco on Tuesday 27 January 2015: Around 2.30 am a huge SUV rammed through the glass door of the popular Wells Fargo History Museum. Masked men jump into the firm’s museum, one of them keeping a security guard at bay with his gun.

The attack took place right in front of the exhibition's showpiece, a historical stagecoach of Wells Fargo from the 1860s. Photograph: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The attack took place right in front of the exhibition's showpiece, a historical stagecoach of Wells Fargo from the 1860s. Photograph: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The thieves were rather interested in smaller objects than the historical stagecoach much alike Wild West outlaws and grabbed gold nuggets from the epoch of the Gold Rush weighing some ten ounces. Then they escaped in another car. The security guard was not harmed, no other exhibition objects were damaged, the consternation is great, though.

It is particularly sad that the place of the incident was not one of the many branches of the financial service provider but a museum. Historical testimonies are gathered at this location where Wells Fargo opened it’s very first office in 1852.

Robert Chandler, former historian at Wells Fargo, states that he had feared even worse when he heard of the theft. He worried for the precious stagecoach, the (still working) telegraph, and a scale. The value of historical nuggets like those stolen exceeds their pure metal value by far. However, it seems unlikely that they can be channelled into the market. As expert Don Kagin has assured US dealers will be very alert. Therefore the thieves will rather sell the gold for meltdown price in order to conceal its origin.

This theft is the latest in a whole series following the same pattern. Until now police was not able to seize any of the stolen objects or convict the guilty ones. However, even in the field of crime fighting Wells Fargo has got a reputation: in 1883 Wells Fargo detectives run down famous gentleman outlaw Black Bart who had attacked the company’s stagecoaches for years reciting his own (and rather ludicrous) poems before his victims. Historian Chandler, at least, makes his position clear – in a traditional Wild West style: ‘I’ve got three comments. This is personal. Hang the bastards. And Wells Fargo never forgets.’

The media reported on the heist, for example SFGate and …

NBC Bay Area.

The FBI has released images of the thieves made by the CCTV.

The Wells Fargo website offers many information and images around the company’s history.

For more information on the exhibition in San Francisco please click here.

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