Bank Robber or Business Man?
Doroteo Arango, the infamous revolutionary who headed the rebellion against the Mexican government at the turn of the century, was a legendary and charismatic figure. However, documents found recently from the Wells Fargo Bank archives indicate that he was also somewhat of an astute businessman.
Arango, who is more commonly known as Pancho Villa, lead numerous heists as a means to financing the revolution. One robbery, in 1913, involved a Wells Fargo train-- in which he and his banditos walked away with 122 bars of silver. The booty was valued in the neighborhood of 160,000 U.S. dollars at that time, but Villa was unable to locate a buyer for the hot merchandise. Not being one who accepted defeat easily, he arranged a secret deal with Wells Fargo to sell back the stolen loot !
Walter Brem, a library curator from the University of California, where the documents detailing the hold-up and buy-back were discovered, recounted the agreement Villa struck with bank officials.
Villa was paid 50,000 dollars in cash for the silver and agreed not to target any more Wells Fargo trains. The documents also revealed that the bank didn't want to publicize the transaction for fear of inspiring copycat thieves and of being known as a collaborator in aiding the revolution. A side note was that Villa only returned 93 of the 122 bars of the silver, claiming that the rest of the loot was stolen by his men. (Yeah, right !)
The documents, a series of letters written by Wells Fargo personnel, were part of a collection of corporate history archives which were donated to the University of California in 1996. The "smoking gun," as Brem described it, is that many historians had doubts about the validity of these events, which various believed were pure folklore.