A local woman is suing her bank, saying they did not have the right to take money out of her CD to pay on her sister’s defaulted home loan. The trial is underway in downtown Clearwater.

When Linda Pisantos was approved for a home equity loan at Wells Fargo, she did not know her sister had two CD’s there with her name on them.

“Had you ever seen or had knowledge of that CD before?” asked Pisantos’ sister’s attorney, William Rambaum.

“Not before all of this legal stuff,” she replied.

The legal stuff started when Margaret Zurro, Pisantos’ sister, went to check on that $40,000 CD.

"They told her that the amount that she thought was in the CD was no longer there,” Pisantos told the court. More than half of it was gone. Zurro called her sister and the two began to put the pieces together.

Pisantos had defaulted on that Home Equity Loan after falling on tough times. Wells Fargo took the money from the CD to make up the loss but Zurro said she had indicated to the bank that her sister was only to be listed on the account as payable upon death in the event of Zurro’s death.

Her attorneys argued the bank should not have taken the money and never got the documentation to place Pisantos on the account.

An expert, testifying on Zurro’s behalf, agreed.

“Based on all of the documents I've seen in this case, Wachovia had neither a contractual right of settlement nor a common law right of settle up against the funds in Margaret Zurro account to pay off the Linda Pisantos’ loan,” said James Kreig who has 40 years of experience as in-house council for large banks.

Attorneys for Wachovia which is now Wells Fargo say Margaret Zurro signed a contract with them which made moving the money legal. They said in deposition Zurro denied indicating that she wanted Pisano’s name only to be on the account in the event of her death.

"Do you recall telling the bank employee that you wanted the December CD to be like the March CD,” read Ron Edwards Jr., a defense attorney. “'No' She tried to back track a little bit on here at trial but I think the Court can make its own determination as to whether her memory was better 14 months ago or was it better now."

Bank attorneys told the judge it was always a joint account. There is no jury for the case and only a judge will make the ruling. The case is still ongoing. No word on when a decision will be made.

Wells Fargo representatives released this statement to Bay News 9:

Wells Fargo values our customers and regrets that it is in litigation with Ms. Zurro.  We don’t believe that the law or facts support her claims that we wrongfully accessed any funds from her CD. We will continue to defend ourselves against these allegations.