‘They just let it happen’: Puyallup woman fights for late uncle who had $3M stolen in email scam

SEATTLE — Janine Satterfield still mourns the death of her uncle, U.S. Navy Commander Larry Cook, who passed away in Virginia in 2021.

Janine, a Puyallup resident, is the executor of Cook’s will, and on behalf of his estate she is suing Wells Fargo and Navy Federal Credit Union. The banks did little as her uncle, suffering from the impacts of a stroke, wired $3.6 million overseas because of an email scam.

The scam started with an Amazon email sent to Cook for a PlayStation and iPad he didn’t order. On it he wrote ”fraudulent,” called Amazon and canceled his order.

The next day, another email was sent for a gaming console and Cook stopped that order as well. Janine believes the scammers then tricked her uncle to begin wiring them funds.

“That started the very, very scripted, very brilliant process of the exploitation of a vulnerable adult,” Janine described.

The wires obtained by KIRO 7 show there are more than 70 cash transfers. Most were around $50,000 to banks in Bangkok, Thailand, all with vague addresses listed on the wiring documents including alleys and a hotel spa.

Janine can’t believe the bank didn’t catch these.

“Never wired money in his life. Seventy-five international wires,” she said.

Kimberley Murphy is the lawyer representing Cook’s estate. She said the bank had a duty to stop the wires.

“In our view, they need to pay them back. Pay back the money that should not have gone out,” Murphy said.

Wells Fargo said it takes financial exploitation very seriously and is committed to helping its customers avoid fraud and scams through various resources, including ongoing education efforts.

Court records show most of the wires took place at Navy Federal. The complaint says a Navy Federal employee was concerned about Cook and contacted Virginia’s version of Adult Protective Services. The agency then told the bank, “there was a risk for financial exploitation,” and asked that his accounts continued to be monitored. But the lawyer representing the estate says after the report, 40 more wires were sent overseas.

That said, even the family admits Cook repeatedly told investigators he didn’t want help.

That’s what diminished capacity is,” said his niece, Janine.

Unfortunately, in Virginia and Washington financial intuitions are not required to report financial exploitation of the elderly.

Just last week the court ruled against Janine and the estate, but she continues to fight the good fight.

“He’s a walking red flag that’s on fire. It’s a burning red flag. And they just let it happen,” said Janine.

The biggest red flag? The last wire that wasn’t sent — dated on the day Cook died.

In regards to the case, a Navy Federal Credit Union spokesperson said, “We respect the decision of the court.”

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