Felonious Dishonesty?

What do you think about this: a guy goes to the drive-up window at his bank, and they accidentally give him $3350 that was supposed to go to another customer.  He drives off.  He is now facing felony theft charges.

I wanted to blog about this because I really disagree with it.  Morally, it wasn’t right of the man to drive off with money he knew did not belong to him.  Ethically, he should have notified the teller of his or her mistake, and the teller should have thanked him profusely.  But I believe that to charge this guy with theft is wrong.  Sure, he took someone else’s money, but it was a bad decision made in the heat of the moment.  He saw a lot of money, it had been given to him, and he made a mistake.  It was a bad decision, and a greedy one at that, but deserving of a felony?  I think not.  If convicted, this man will have a felony record.  He will have trouble finding employment, and he will lose basic freedoms that many people take for granted, such as owning a gun or being able to vote.  I believe it to be a bit severe to slap him with a felony record when his crime shows no premeditation nor malice toward another.  For all he knew, he was given the money and he might not have realized that his taking it would have hurt anyone.  He did not hold up the bank, and order a teller to give it to him or use a gun to get the money.  Again, clearly the wrong thing to do morally, but were his actions criminal?

What do you think?  Check as many answers as you’d like, and feel free to add any thoughts or opinions you have in the comments section.

[poll id=”20″]

If you would like to  read the article before voting in my poll, below is a copy of the original article that was printed on dailyherald.com.  Hmm, I see that his court date is only days away.  I will post an update to this story if I come across one.

A man who reportedly drove off after a bank teller mistakenly gave him $3,350 that was supposed to go to another customer now faces felony theft charges.

The teller at a drive-in window of Chase Bank, 2555 Golf Road, Hoffman Estates, accidentally sent the cash to the wrong customer and quickly told the recipient to come inside the bank, said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Moe Ahmad.

But the driver, whose name and address was known to the bank because of his transaction, drove away, Ahmad said.

Hoffman Estates police arrested Luis Villarreal, a 26-year-old stay-at-home father, Thursday in his home in the 600 block of Alcoa Lane in Hoffman Estates. Ahmad said police found $2,920 in a diaper bag.

Cook County Associate Judge John J. Scotillo set Villarreal’s bond at $25,000 and ordered him to appear at 9 a.m. Sept. 16 in room 108 of the Rolling Meadows Courthouse.

8 thoughts on “Felonious Dishonesty?”

  1. I was going to say charge him with a misdemeanor, but when I read the story and saw that they asked him to come into the bank, that is where he crossed the line to a felony charge.
    He was informed that something was amiss and left. That indicates intent. That intent indicates a felony charge.

  2. The customer was morally and ethically wrong to begin with. When he was asked to come into the bank to correct the mistake, that did go beyond ethics. It was not very smart for him to simply drive off when the bank knew where he lived so he was sure to be caught sooner rather than later.

    However, I checked the “What about the teller option?” A $3350 mistake is awfully costly… even if they caught it immediately after sending the money to the wrong person.

  3. I didn’t explain that I had started writing this post a month or two ago when this first happened, and I finished writing this post today. I found the draft, and I wrote my thoughts and feelings today before re-reading the story, not remembering that the man was asked to come in the bank after the mistake was made. That does indicate wrong-doing, so I don’t think he should get off scot-free, however, I still think a felony is way harsh and that felonies should be reserved for violent, malicious crimes, etc. No wonder jails are overcrowded.
    There was intent of wrong-doing in this case, but not premeditation, and to me, that difference describes the man’s character. His greed got the best of him in the heat of the moment, and he did something wrong, but he did not wake up that day plotting a way to steal over $3,000 from somebody else.
    I’m interested to hear what the judge has to say in a few days.

  4. I can understand your sense of fairness here. I seem to recall an incident some years ago with someone at your then college getting caught up in a situation with an unfair law- writing bad checks as a felony…

    But yes, I am in agreement that willful intent was shown on his part. It will be up to the court to decide if what he is being charged with will be what he is found guilty of, so he could easily still end up with a misdemeanor.

  5. Oh yes, there was an incident in the town where I attended college with a bank messing with people’s checking accounts, but then again, I don’t remember if felonies were involved… perhaps you are thinking of something else.
    As a headline junkie, I’ve read about crime for years, and I’ve never been a supporter of tossing people in jail over non-violent offenses (drugs, financial, etc). I think the jails are way overcrowded, and based on the way prisoners are treated by the staff, each other and society when they get out, putting them in jail or prison for minor offenses can do more harm to society than people are willing to admit. Rehabilitation, classes, community service opportunities, counseling and probation are all things that could be utilitzed more effectively than prison in my opinion.
    Lots of good comments here, which is what I was hoping for, so thanks!

  6. No, I do remember you two mentioning to me back then how ridiculous it was that writing bad checks was considered a felony in Normal, whether by willful intent or error. I don’t recall whether you yourselves were caught up in this law. I also remember you mentioning someone’s community service in deplorable conditions, but that might be for something unrelated.

    Agreed that jails are overcrowded. Perhaps if this is his first offense he can be let off with a fine and community service, or at most house-arrest.

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