Social Question

ubersiren's avatar

Did this man get fair treatment?

Asked by ubersiren (15044 points ) January 27th, 2010

Here’s the article (it’s fairly short). http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/01/26/2010-01-26_bank_goof_gave_bklyn_man_5_million_headache_he_says.html

I’m curious to see what the collective has to say about it. All things considered: His attempts to make things right, how the money was spent, his character- what do you think?

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49 Answers

jordy240's avatar

It’s just probation. No big deal. Probably worth it in the end

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Of course he did – he spent some of the money! It wasn’t his!

Blackberry's avatar

His mistake was spending the 500k. I would spend some of the money as well after I’ve tried to give it back. He still spent it though, so consequences are necessary I guess.

Seek's avatar

He didn’t do any worse than I would have in the same situation.

This is how I read it:

~Guy looks at bank statement~ Woah!
~goes to bank~ Bank, I think you screwed up.
Bank: No we didn’t.
Guy: I think you did.
Bank: I insist we didn’t.
Guy: Cool. I’m gonna get my teeth fixed.

…..

Bank: Hey! We screwed up!

Blackberry's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr LMAO! Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

What the fuck? “I tried four times to give it back,” he said. “I met with bank executives 10 times.“Prosecutors said he didn’t try hard enough. What more could they ask for?

So, what’s happening to the bank employee that made the error in the first place? To me, it sounds like he ought to take some blame in the matter.

ubersiren's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr That’s what I was thinking. What incredible willpower one would have to have in order to not spend anything after trying to give it back four times!

Will the bank be punished in any way?

john65pennington's avatar

Very fair treatment. he knew the money did not belong to him, but greed took over and now its his time to pay the piper. he knew right from wrong and what he did was wrong. he should have left the money alone, until the bank customer missed it.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I don’t think he’s being treated fairly. As @Seek_Kolinahr said, what did they want him to do? Hold up a teller at gunpoint to get the bank to take the money back?!

He pled guilty to a lesser charge. I wonder what a jury would have done with the case.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Even if I knew the money wasn’t mine, after trying to give it back 4 times, I’d say screw it, I’m spending it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Even if the bank didn’t take the money back, I wouldn’t spend it…obviously eventually the events will turn around…like they did for this man.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I wouldn’t have spent it. Turn it over to the state as lost property and let the bank fight the state to get it back. They wouldn’t be able to touch me.

john65pennington's avatar

Good thing he took a plea. a jury would have sent him to prison. if you were on this jury, what sentence would you have given him?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The money wasn’t his. If the bank wouldn’t take it back, then give it to the state. But get rid of it and the temptation.

Snarp's avatar

Not enough information. He says he met with bank executives ten times, but tried to give the money back four times. What were the other six meetings? How exactly did he try to give the money back? Taking him entirely at his word it sounds terribly unfair, but there’s not enough information here to make a real judgment. Even at that, he’s only getting probation. Nobody says why he lost his job or attempted suicide or whether those things can really be blamed on the bank or the prosecution.

tinyfaery's avatar

Jury nullified. tinyfaery would not convict.

Seek's avatar

Honestly, that $400,000 is enough to obliterate all of my monetary problems. I could pay off my house, all of my debt, fix my teeth, get lasik surgery, fix the deformities in my feet, and get a good used car for myself and a work vehicle for my husband so I don’t have to drive around a car with a fucked-up transmission anymore.

A little probation would totally be worth it.

Cruiser's avatar

There has to be much more to the story, he would not have pleaded guilty unless he was guilty of more than just spending some of the money and truly believed he did his best to effect a return of the money. Plus had that really been the case of him meeting with bank execs and believing he did all he could I doubt the bank would have pursued charges against him and instead simply sued him for recovery of funds had the bank only been guilty of a stupid clerical error. This guy had to have pissed off the bank with how he handled his side of the story for the bank to pursue charges.

ccrow's avatar

I agree w/ @Cruiser; there must be more to it than that article goes into.

Pandora's avatar

If in fact he did meet with the bank excecutives he should have not been blamed for anything. Sure the money wasn’t his but they kept insisting it was. I say the bank should’ve taken the hit for the lost money. There are a lot of checks and balances that go on in a bank transfer and it has to go through several employees. All they had to do was look up where the money came from and call them and ask them about the transaction and the address of the person who they sent it too. Sounds like some people were too lazy.
However like cruiser said, it may be more to the story. Most bankers would freak at an idea of a possible mistake like that and would love the idea of saving their bank and being a hero. Its hard to believe they wouldn’t look into the matter. Unless the person who made the mistake is very high up and no one wanted to question him.
I can see a huge transaction like that maybe going through someone high up the chain.

Siren's avatar

If everything in that article is accurate, and the man did try to give it back, then no, it’s not fair treatment. In fact, it looks like the bank is using him as an example to the rest of us, that if they make a mistake and we get rich off it (no matter how many times we try to return their money), they’re going to come after us regardless. Bullies.

I think the guy just got sick of trying to return the money and finally decided to stick it to them, since they were unwilling to take him seriously.

Snarp's avatar

Maybe he met with bank executives and they said, yes, we made a mistake, it’s going to take a little time to get it fixed, please don’t withdraw any of that money, and he ignored that part. Who knows? I really can’t stand stories like these that are designed to play on common fears and prejudices (in this case, distrust of banks) to get people all worked up over something so they’ll buy more papers to find out what other crazy things are going on, when the truth isn’t likely to be nearly so sensational.

Pandora's avatar

@Snarp, If the bank did believe it was a possible error than they could’ve frozen the funds until it was corrected. I worked in a bank some years ago and I can say that they would never trust someone to be that honest. Even if they thought him crazy, they would’ve checked unless like I said it was someone high up and they couldn’t believe they would’ve made an error that big or didn’t want to be the one to rock the boat.
But I’m sure heads rolled and the bank had to pay back the loss and they lost the account of the person who made the transfer and the one who was suppose to get the money. It certainly serves them right.

MissAnthrope's avatar

If it’s all true (he tried to give the money back repeatedly and the bank kept telling him there was no mistake), then yes, it’s unfair. I’m pretty sure after talking to bank people four or ten times and having them tell me each time there was no mistake, that I would go, Okay, then! and shrug my shoulders. I do feel like I would have waited to spend it, though, just in case, but seriously, he tried to give it back and was told repeatedly by bank people that they didn’t want it. How is that his fault?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MissAnthrope because it doesn’t matter what the bank said – the money wasn’t his and he knew it.

Snarp's avatar

@MissAnthrope He says he tried to give it back four times. Notice how any other point of view is conspicuously absent from the article.

dalepetrie's avatar

#1 – the article isn’t specific enough as to what really happened. What constituted him “trying to give it back”? And he “tried 4 times”, but “met with bank executives 10 times”? Something isn’t adding up here. I’d really need more details before I’d second guess the court’s decision.

#2 – The bank says it’s $5 million, he says it’s “closer to $2 million”, nothing in the article reconciles that $3 million. According to him, he spent ‘about $400,000’ and paid ‘what restitution he could’, but hey, if you don’t pay attention, you might believe he returned $4.6 million out of $5 million, whereas he may have returned ‘about $1.6 million’ out of $5 million. Again, not enough detail in this story.

#3 – Why didn’t the bank just reverse the transaction when they saw it, even if it WAS 2 years later? Unless he moved the money out of his account, it should have been there for them to take. Something doesn’t add up here, and how, by the way, could they NOT have had a person who was missing that $5 million. You have one customer who says “a $5M transfer didn’t make it into my account,” and another who says, “you put an extra $5M in my account,” I’m sorry, but I don’t believe under those circumstances the bank would fail to catch that for so long. It makes me wonder if the guy is as honest as he claims to be…something is fishy here.

#4 – Let’s assume there are good explanations for all of these questions, and that this guy did everything he was supposed to do in order to tell them about the money and the bank really just screwed up. Let’s assume this one sided article which is clearly siding with the guy and not the bank is really one sided because his side is ultimately 100% the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As others have pointed out, he spent the money, and it wasn’t his. And for this, he got probation, not jail time.

Let’s hypothesize for a second and say this happened to me. I would first place a call to the bank. If I could not get it resolved right then and there, I would send a certified letter. If that got no response, I would get on the phone, find the highest level person I could and I would state that I wanted something in writing that stated that the bank did not make a mistake in depositing this money to my account, and that I had the legal right to make use of this money, and could not be held criminally or civilly liable for spending these funds if the bank should at some future date decide they had indeed made a mistake. If I could not get the bankers to put that in writing, I would contact an attorney to put the facts in writing for me, to include a statement which absolved me from any criminal or civil liability, and until i could get an officer of the bank to sign that document, I would not spend dime one. I would take what money was in my account, move THAT money to a new account, and leave the old account dormant. If the money sat there and the bank did not reverse it’s decision, but would not sign over unrestricted legal rights to the money, I would look for a legal loophole to find out when that money became my property, as I’m sure at some point it would become my legal property, mistake or no mistake, and I’d want to know when that was. But I would not just spend the money knowing that it was a mistake. And if I did, I would deserve at LEAST probation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie agreed…given the amount, a lawyer is the way to go.

CMaz's avatar

“Lovell spent $500,000 on an investment firm that went belly up, $8,000 on jewelry for a girlfriend, $36,000 on dental implants, $5,000 on vitamins and colonics, and $10,000 on cash gifts to family and friends.”

He got off easy.

cornbird's avatar

The man tried hard to give it back and it seemed that they didnt want it back. Besides he looks like he needs the money more than those bank firms do. I would have had a good time if i got so much money.

ubersiren's avatar

Probation seems fair, I’ve decided. However, I’m still wondering if the bank will receive any punishment. They’re the ones who messed up and didn’t take back the money when Lovell tried to return it. Even if he only tried once, that should’ve been enough, right? Instead, the prosecution is saying he “didn’t try enough.” Wtf? How hard should he have tried? He tried to fix a $5 million mistake that the bank made. If they didn’t jump on that opportunity, then they’re just as stupid.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@john65pennington and anyone else who thinks this was “fair treatment”: He’s going to be taxed on what is in that account. If he really did meet with “bank executives” “ten times”, then I’d say he went as far as a reasonable man could.

Of course it’s not his money! He knew that from the beginning, apparently, and (also apparently) did try to return the money. Who else should he talk to if “bank executives” refuse to correct the error—that has the potential to cost them in excess of $5 million? This seems like a huge miscarriage of justice—but there has to be more to this story than what is presented.

What happened, for example, when the bank finally came to their senses and said, “Hey, we have a $5 million error! Look at this, we gave the money to the wrong guy; let’s sue him!” There must have been some point between initiation of the suit and actual prosecution when the DA, the bank executives and attorneys, and the “victim” (or as the newspaper account has it, “the perpetrator”) could have all gotten together and made a reasonable settlement, taking into account this man’s alleged attempts to return the money.

There’s too much missing from this story for it to make sense to me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

He should have kept trying, meanwhile putting the entire 5 millon in passbook savings accounts so it could draw interest, then return the money as soon as the idiots at the bank admitted their error… but KEPT the interest.

Cruiser's avatar

Ahhh HAH! Apparently this money was in a trust account signed to another Benjamin Lovell with the same name and the bank messed up the account numbers which partially explains why the bank was sure it was “his” money! Another news article say this Ben Lovell who was charged only makes $600 a week and only had $800 in his own account. So shame on him for taking the money he surely knew wasn’t his!! He is lucky he is only getting probation.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23307172/

CaptainHarley's avatar

I can’t ABIDE banks… OR insurance companies! They are leeches on the body politic and should be banned, provided we could find acceptable substitues! : D

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Cruiser, this story was different from the OP’s link. They both leave out far too many details to come to any reasonable conclusions about this based on the scant news stories. (Thanks for your link.)

If this is what passes for journalism in the USA today, then it’s no wonder we’re so badly informed, ignorant and even stupid.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CyanoticWasp it’s not what passes for journalism with me. but there isn’t much out there that does.

Jeruba's avatar

Assuming that it happened as described in this story:

He knew it wasn’t his. He spent it anyway. He was obviously wrong. But it sounds like he’s been punished enough.

Cruiser's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Which further proves the the news media is only in it for the money or I believe are so desperate to try and survive against the free wild west reporting of the internet. It is our own fault for patronizing these media outlets and giving their reporting practices legs. Hit counts are all that matters anymore regardless of what you say, write or do to get them!

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

In a strict legal sense @john65pennington is correct.

Is punishment is fairly mild considering he did use money he knew could not possibly belong to him.

If the bank owes you $10,000, it is no big problem!
If you owe the bank $0.10 you have a big problem.

With elected Prosecutors and Judges practically owned by Banks, he is lucky he did not get worse.

Banks can buy ”justice”, while citizens are subject to bank errors and are blamed when the Banks make errors then refuse to admit or correct them.

Supacase's avatar

My initial thought is to place the $5mil into some sort of account and draw interest off of it until the bank wises up – and hope it is a few years. (I would stop trying to fix it with them after 10 visits, too, but I wouldn’t spend any of the original money.)

I’m sure there is some financial reason that would not be a good idea, but I am sadly not familiar with the ins and outs of having a large sum of money.

ubersiren's avatar

@CaptainHarley Now, that’s a great idea!

CaptainHarley's avatar

@ubersiren

Why thank you! : D

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m with @CaptainHarley I would have put the money in an interest earning account, and let it work for me until the bank got around to actually asking for it back. The interest alone would keep piling up as long as the bank failed to ask for the principal, could earn at least $200 per month.

filmfann's avatar

When a bank shorts someones account, do you think the bank will be treated the same way?
I feel sorry for this poor guy.

Snarp's avatar

Well, if you’re going the route of trying to earn interest on the money, you take the money out of the bank that made the mistake and put it in an online money market account, on which you can get about 1.5% interest. That’s $75,000 a year. Yeah, you can live pretty comfortably on that. Set aside $5,000 a year, because that’s the interest the bank would probably have given you (0.1%), and when they ask for the money back you give it to them with the interest they would have paid you on it. You’re still up $70,000 a year. Now how exactly you report all this on your taxes, I have no idea.

john65pennington's avatar

This man did not come out the winner in his sudden wealth. you are forgetting that everything he bought with the money had to be given back or sold at auction in order to make restitution to the bank. yes, the bank made a mistake and i am sure some officer or teller has lost their job over this. he has filed bankruptcy and is on probation. true, he made an effort to give the money back many times. the main problem with this man was greed. he knew the money did not belong to him, but a greedy devil made him write the checks and wear out the atm for cash. he knew his time was coming.

Siren's avatar

I’m with @CaptainHarley ‘s take on banks and insurance companies. They can do whatever they want nowadays and write their own destiny. And with the others who are tired of following questionable reports/articles on the internet.

snowberry's avatar

Hmmmm. Commerce Bank. I’ll not be one of their customers! What lousy business practices! What lousy ethics! What creepy people! He does have to pay back what he can, but they owe him an apology. Still, considering that he didn’t have to go to jail, I think he was treated all right.

If he had not tried to give it back the first time, the second time, or the third time, I’d say he was a criminal. But trying to give it back FOUR TIMES, and meeting with the bank execs a total of TEN TIMES??? How stupid can they get? I agree with the others. I hope they did lose their jobs.

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