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Roswell man's $43,000 credit a mistake: Spends windfall, but bank wants it back

Bank credits $43,000 into man's bank account by mistake and he spends it all.
Bank credits $43,000 into man's bank account by mistake and he spends it all.
University of Utah

When the bank made the mistake of crediting $43,000 to a Roswell, New Mexico man’s bank account, instead of crediting the $430 deposit he had made at an ATM machine, they had every right under the law to get that money back. Unfortunately the man did not see it that way and he spent every last dime of the money.

While some folks can think of ways to rationalize this money as now being theirs, it is not. If you spend money that isn't yours, even when it is sitting in your bank account, it is against the law. It is just like taking a new sports car along the side of the road just because it had the keys in the ignition and the doors wide open, claims Sheyna Steiner from Bankrate.

When the man found the $43,000 mistake, he quietly spent the money and he did not notify the bank of their error, this was back in November. Now in July with the money not returned, legal action is underway, according to the Canada Journal on July 3. While most people will do the right thing and notify their financial institution that there’s extra money in their account in a case like this, those who don’t can ultimately face jail time.

The Washington Federal Bank had contacted the New Mexico man, but he never replaced the money. The bank was left with no option but to press charges. The Roswell Police Department has opened an investigation into this case.The next step is for the county’s district attorney to decide how to proceed with this case, which is one of two ways.

It has been eight months with no effort on the man's part to pay any of the money back so that door has closed. The bank thought that he might do the right thing, but apparently he had something different in mind. The district attorney can go the route of criminal court or civil court, with civil court being the lessor of two evils for the man.

They can go after the main in a criminal court of law, which means he will be made to pay back the money and he could not only get fines, but jail time. The other option is a civil case, where he is summoned to court and ordered to pay the money back without any criminal charges of theft on his record.

The problem with the civil court option is that the man has had plenty of time already to pay back what he took from the bank account and he didn't. In civil court the judge will more than likely order payments be made by the man. If he reneges on this agreement, they could start going after his assets. This can be a long-drawn out affair for the bank to recoup their money.

According to Bankrate, most bank mistakes don't lead to jail time, but they do come with headaches and they can be time consuming. Everyone knows someone who has had the shoe on the other foot where the bank's error is not in your favor. In cases like that, banks are usually more than cooperative to fix their mistake.

If any fees or fines occurred due to their mistake, they are usually amendable to reimbursing the customer. Mistakes will be made, but the law is on the side of the party who is the rightful owner of that money. In the case of this $43,000 mistake, it is the banks money and it needs to be paid back under the law.

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