A 28-year-old Phoenix man was stunned this week when he checked his bank account and found a mysterious $500,000 deposit.
What’s even more surprising about the apparently accidental deposit is the source. It came from a man named Michael Lacey, and there are several indications it’s the same Michael Lacey accused of money laundering and facilitating prostitution in the Backpage.com scandal.
Lacey, a co-founder of the site, was released from custody Friday after posting a $1 million bond. On Monday night, Parker Fox checked his account balance at Republic Bank of Arizona and discovered he was $500,000 richer.
“You see an additional half-million dollars in your account, your imagination runs wild,” said the recent law school grad.
He took a screenshot of his account balance and showed some friends at a bar.
“For a solid 12 hours, I guess I was a half-millionaire. Buying some drinks for some buddies,” he said, adding, “not with that money – with another card.”
Fox said he called the bank the next day and they told him it was a clerical error. The deposit slip lists “Michael Lacey” in the section designated for the account holder’s name with Fox’s account number handwritten below it, along with the phrase “new account.”
In other words, it appears someone named Michael Lacey was attempting to open a new account at Republic Bank, but a mix-up over the handwritten account numbers routed the money instead into Fox's existing checking account.
The bank transferred the funds out of Fox's account that day.
Republic Bank of Arizona is a small, community bank with only one branch location – on Seventh Street and Missouri Avenue in Phoenix. When reached by phone Wednesday, bank president and CEO Ralph Tapscott said he couldn’t comment on specifics but said posting errors do happen, and when they do, the bank runs debits and credits to correct them.
Calls Wednesday afternoon to attorneys representing Michael Lacey were not immediately returned.
The federal indictment against Lacey and six other Backpage.com executives lists a series of assets the government wants to seize if the defendants are convicted, including 25 bank accounts. Five of those bank accounts are at Republic Bank of Arizona.
Mel McDonald, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said the deposit could catch the attention of federal prosecutors because of Lacey’s terms of release. Lacey is required to have permission from the court before making any expenditures that exceed $1,000. He is also required to disclose all of his domestic and international assets.
However, McDonald thinks the most likely purpose for the money was something benign – like to fund Lacey’s legal fees.
“If you're trying to do something unlawful, such as laundering money, you don't deposit money in your own name,” he said.
“If I put up a million-dollar bond on Friday, I’m probably going to be a little short of cash on Monday,” McDonald added.
Lacey has done mysterious things with money before. He sent former employees surprise checks for $5,000 in 2016 shortly before he was charged by California prosecutors, according to City Pages.
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