back to article US couple leg it with 'gift from God' bank error

A Pennsylvania man is languishing in county jail after he and his wife withdrew more than $175,000 erroneously credited to their bank account and legged it to Florida, AP reports. Randy Pratt, 50, and missus Melissa, 36, of Bloomsburg, received the unexpected windfall when a $1,772.50 deposit into their FNB Bank account …


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  1. Lionel Baden


    I kida wish they hadnt got caught

    But i have to admit if I was given that much I wouldnt touch it with a barge pole.

  2. Graham Marsden


    ... has a lot to answer for with its "Bank error in your favour, collect £200" card!

    (There again, I once had a £35.00 rent cheque debited as £3500.00 by my bank!!)

  3. b
    IT Angle

    Randy Pratt?????


  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    If you're going to exploit a bank error in you favor, why fly to florida!?!?! Honestly, fly to a country without an extradition treaty!

    One further proof (as if it were needed) that american's don't understand the world outside of america... "There be dragons abroad" they cry as they holiday in the sunshine state...

    Another point worth mentioning though, is that it makes no sense what so ever that they're being prosecuted. The bank screwed up, isn't that what they're insured for?!

  5. Steve John

    An excellent case of

    nominative determinism!

  6. Sean Groarke

    Titter ye not


  7. Jason Togneri

    @ Morons!

    "Another point worth mentioning though, is that it makes no sense what so ever that they're being prosecuted. The bank screwed up, isn't that what they're insured for?!"

    Errr... are you stupid? They knew the money wasn't theirs, they knew that the error would probably be noticed and rectified quite quickly, and they knew their correct course of action as law-abiding (note that term) citizens would be to report it and wait, and yet they grabbed the cash, quit their jobs, and vanished with it - that's called theft. If I gave my wallet to you, that's one thing - but if I leave my wallet in your house by mistake, and you leg it with my cash and max out my credit cards, that's quite another.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Morons!

    > Honestly, fly to a country without an extradition treaty!

    An average American has no real idea of a world outside the US...

  9. Dennis

    Re: Randy Pratt?????

    "The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children." - Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice," act III, sc. V, l. 1

    Mine's the one with the dictionary of quotes in the pocket.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Truth, justice, and the American way

    Minor criminal exploits small bank mistake (<$200K), hard up deserving folks benefit, and culprint gets locked up.

    Dozens of major criminals (aka investment *ankers) dishonestly and incompetently waste tens of billions of dollars of customer money, and none of them is charged with anything.

    Personally I prefer the Chinese approach. Break the rules, pay the price. Kind of focuses the attention.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    I sold some (ex-employer) shares last year (needed the money) the sale was via the companies own share service, a few weeks back I received a share statement, no sign of the sale, I still have the full whack; tried to contact them by phone (3 times) after going through 5 levels or automated menu I get put in a queue, then after 10 minutes I get a recorder " your call is important to us, please call again later" message and the line goes dead... Seems obvious to me they don't want the shares back...

  12. AndyC

    What they should have done...

    Is removed the cash, opened another bank account with it and left it in there and not touched it... When the error is discovered, they have the defence of "Yes, we have all your money that yu deposited into our/my account. Please allow 3 - 5 working days for it to be transfered from our location". Transfere the exact amount back, pay the bank, close the account and move to other new bank. Depending how long it is, may make anywhere from a few pence to a couple of quid... And it would annoy the bank, which is the whole point really...

  13. Anonymous Coward


    "Yeah, we know what you're thinking - only a couple of complete Pratts would run off with just $177k."

    Come on, we don't know much about their background. He could have been a pizza delivery man and this amount could be life-changing for him. Of course, very little is worth a spell in a US prison but it's possible to see why it could be tempting.

    I thought criminals fled from the US to Mexico ?

  14. darkmooink
    IT Angle

    decimal point

    not the first time a us company didnt know what a decimal point was for see for proof

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Well im glad I.....

    didnt run off when an ,and I wont name them, well know airline freight dept accidentally gave me 2 large boxes that were meant to be collected by Brinks Mat, lol. When I had them at hme (as I was delivering next day) I noticed on the manifests that it said $500,000 of jewellery for Cartiers in London. Was thinking "brazil here I come" but thought better of it and next morning gave it back. Yes I know im stupid.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fair game!!

    To be honest, the amount of cr@p we have to put up with banks, I reckon if a cockup like that happens, the account holder should be able to pocket the money. It'll keep the banks paying a bit more attention to customer service and, y'know, counting money correctly.

  17. Blake St. Claire

    @AC, re: average american

    I guess I'm not average then. Hopefully I'm better than average, but it's hard to tell sometimes.

    I'm guessing that they don't have passports and well, Florida has DisneyWorld, so maybe that was the appeal. For a real foreign country I'm surprised they didn't head to New Mexico.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder what the maximum intrest is that they could have erned on that?

    It would make a nice change from the bank making money out of there money!

  19. Anonymous Coward

    re: ac's saying average US unaware of rest of world

    The concept is entertaining in its sheer ignorance. The thing we're all amazed about is that they fled to FLORIDA?!?!?! I supposed they did it for the 3rd world look & feel around Miami, but there is a reason why has a special tag for stupid stuff coming out of Florida.

    That said, not sure why they didn't travel to some country where that small amount would actually be useful. After all, in FL, $175k would only buy you a nice trailer and a car with a footprint gas pedal, but would fall far short of being able to buy the requisite supply of wife-beater shirts, dogs, yard appliances and missing teeth for the mandatory apearance on Springer with both of your siblings/cousins/spouses/ex-spouses/in-laws/grandparents/grandchildren. (not too many branches on the ol' family tree -- in FL, genealogy is very difficult or very simple and the inspiration for the left outer join...)

  20. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: What they should have done... AndyC

    <Is removed the cash, opened another bank account with it and left it in there and not touched it... When the error is discovered, they have the defence of "Yes, we have all your money that yu deposited into our/my account. Please allow 3 - 5 working days for it to be transfered from our location".>

    I agree with everything but the last bit. Make the bank prove its their money, after all you may have a generous benefactor anonymously depositing money.

    Chances are the paper trail would show the owner as whoever tried to deposit the $1,772.50 in which case the Bank has no standing in trying to recover the money. You could also try charging the bank for the moneys safekeeping whilst its all sorted out.

    The longer you can delay and keep the money the more interest you get.

  22. jai

    if the shoe was on the other foot

    but if the Bank had debited that amount erroneously from Mr Pratt's account, who in the bank would be facing a trial for fraud?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    okay for her

    So let me get this straight,

    they BOTH take the money

    they BOTH abscond with it ASAP.

    they BOTH get caught.

    HE gets locked up,

    SHE gets to go free.....

    I wonder if she did the teary eyed weepy thing.

    What happened to equal rights?

  24. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: okay for her


  25. Luther Blissett

    Truth, justice, and the Way/Tao/Karma of fraud

    It is unreported whether the judge in declining bail quoted "Render unto Caesar", etc

    Frausters are like lies - it is always hardest to nail the big ones. That does not mean it should not be done.

  26. Joel Clark

    About Face

    You know Sarah, I didn't like you at first, but you are kinda growing on me.

  27. kain preacher


    "If you're going to exploit a bank error in you favor, why fly to florida!?!?! Honestly, fly to a country without an extradition treaty!

    One further proof (as if it were needed) that american's don't understand the world outside of america... "There be dragons abroad" they cry as they holiday in the sunshine state..."

    So then you know that they had a valid passport then ?? Oops . Like tiosee you travel with out one. Now since your so smart show me were you can fly to with on extradition to the US and that does not require a visa .

  28. Mark

    re: About Face

    Though that may be the fungus...

    I'll get my labcoat...

  29. Anonymous Coward


    Ok, I give up, I just can't work it out. Are you a student, or a squatter?

  30. RW

    @ Sarah Bee re "feminist rule of law"

    "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord"

    Watch it, sister. One of these days we're going to jam a law through that requires all ladies to wear serious corsetry, complete with whalebone stays and lots of very tight lacing. You won't be allowed to appear in public with a waist larger than 18" circumference.

    We'll call this "the masculinist rule of law."

    (You _are_ a lady, aren't you?)

  31. Pierre

    "felony theft and conspiracy"

    Preposterous. I do hope they'll win. If the guy can prove he tried to alert the bank, it looks like a done deal. Also, I do hope the bank gets a good spanking for wasting the judiciary's precious time.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Another world outside of America?

    As the Masters of Krikkit said, "It will have to go".

  33. Anonymous Coward

    US is not UK

    I understand that taking advantage of errors like this is not illegal in the UK. Don't run, just spend the money, but spend it quick. If the money is still in your account, or you still have it after removing it from the account, when they realise, then they can claim it back. If you have spent it, too bad, they made a mistake and the money is gone.

    A solicitor I know got a couple thousand pounds paid into his account that he wasn't expecting, and splurged immediately to use it up. He told me about it, and claimed it was legal. But if he was wrong, don't blame me. I am not a lawyer and this is not advice.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @AC, re: US is not UK

    So if I have, e.g. £5K in my account to start with, a bank adds £2K more by mistake, I notice, rush out and spend it, am I supposed to shuffle the other £5K to my mattress so that the bank can't reclaim its money?

    Call me a skeptic. I don't believe you can get away with this.

    If I noticed it I think I'd just leave it there. From an ethical standpoint I'd probably notify the bank, but I'm not aware of any obligation I have to point out their mistake(s) to them.

    If I didn't notice, and spent my way through it all somehow and there was nothing left, and then the bank cried foul, I'd just say I hadn't looked at my statement so didn't even know it was there.

  35. Jason


    Remember signing up for your bank account and reading (you did read it didn't you?) all that fine print before signing? It covers neat stuff like this.

  36. kain preacher

    The law is

    In the US they have 90 days to ask for the money back then its a done deal. If they dont ask in 90 days to bad.

  37. h4rm0ny

    The other foot.

    And it's mistakes like this that make me refuse to sign up to Direct Debits. The bank giveth, and the bank taketh away.

    The only way we'll ever not be at the mercy of the bank is if we start our own currencies.

  38. Andus McCoatover

    Happened to me, too...(BLoad- You've got an 'honorable')

    ..When I sold my first apartment 20-odd years ago, then the same evening I drove me + missus to Norfolk. Dropped into some despicable rat-infested village (Cambridge springs to mind) and withdrew a hundred sovs.

    Bit miffed the ATM said I'd only got 190 or so left, but thinking salary hadn't got there yet, not worried. (ex)wife had a fit on the way there (it was a tight one) but after we'd wiped down, she looked at the ticket from ATM and explained it wasn't 190, but 19,000. Bejeezus!! Bank hadn't credited the new mortgage, but paid us instead. Now this was 22+ years ago, and I'd have done a runner if I'd been a bit shifty. Fuc*k me sideways, nowadays that'd just get a decent Doner. Or Boner.

    Oh, and to Bload, I bought a frying pan last year that cost over €200. Bugger to lift, great to cook with and really does the missus' head in when she comes home lashed with a "friend".

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's illegal, people

    If a bank makes an error in your favor in the U.S., it's illegal to withdraw that money from that bank account. Even if you keep the money and transfer it into another account. All that will do is give the D.A. permission to freeze ALL of your assets while you are under investigation.

    In most states, you have to notify the bank about any errors within 60 days, even if they are in your favor. The banks catch it themselves almost all the time. Just like for other crimes though, there is a statute of limitations (which varies state to state). So you don't have to keep all of your bank statements forever.

  40. Charles Manning

    @Blake St. Claire -- greedy bastard

    You do realize that by being that much smarter than the Average American means you're leaving less cleverness for the others.

    Your cleverness greed is directly dumbing down other US citizens.

    Please correct this imbalance by watching a Simpsons reruns until you notice an improvement amongst your fellow Americans.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like stories

    OK, I have a lot to say on these, lets start here:

    50 year old bloke, 36 year old wife -- kudos big time.

    As for bank overpayments, in England / Wales at least it goes thusly:

    If an error like this is made a bank has a right to ask for the money back and you have a duty not to spend it. If you knowingly take the money and dispose of it you are committing an offense and can be prosecuted.

    Either way you are obliged to pay the money back, unless you can prove that you genuinely believed the money was yours and to pay it back would cause undue penalty to you (overdraft etc.) in which case you have to pay back everything you can that won't cause undue penalty.

    However, some years ago I was overcharged £1150 by my bank (they took debits they shouldn't) so I requested it back. After much fuss they returned the £1150, plus a cheque for £560 plus another load of £1150.

    I sent the cheque back and told them they had overpaid £1150. So they wrote to me telling me they would debit £1710 (1150+560) from my account. I told them to fuck off and said that, as they had already royally screwed up multiple times, I would not allow any debits from my account unless they guaranteed, with penalties, that they would only debit the amount overpaid.

    They pissed around and threatened me and such, so I wrote to them and confirmed over the phone that if they did not take the overpaid amount (and only that) by close of play on the Friday then I would take it that they had deemed the overpayment as compensation for the fuck ups and so it would become mine. I ave them until end of business Friday to contest this otherwise I would treat it as accepted.

    I heard nothing until the Saturday morning when they sent me a letter saying they would take the overpayment overnight Monday / Tuesday and if they didn't hear from me before 12:00 Saturday then they would treat this as accepted.

    So I phoned them up, told them the money was now mine and said if they withdrew any money from my account I would call the police to prosecute them for theft.

    Monday morning I got a call from them telling me that the overpayment was accidental and so was not legally mine so I couldn't keep it. I told them of the "compensation unless told otherwise by end Friday" at which point they said that was not legal and I had no right to do so, and that they would take legal action if I did not agree to give the money back. So I read them their letter with exactly the same clause in it and told them to fuck themselves and I would see them in court if they attempted to gain money from me with menaces again.

    I will admit I did them a deal for half the amount as it seemed easier than going to court and was still £525 for the sake of 1 letter and about 30 minutes on the phone.

  42. Stratman


    Come on Lee, in England / Wales you commit an offence, not an offense.

  43. Neoc

    I don't get it...

    How exactly did this couple commit Fraud? The bank f*cked up, the couple took advantage of it. At no point did they instigate any actions against the bank except to withdraw money the bank had placed in their account.

    This is not Fraud, this is opportunism. (and if you are religious, you may end up burning in your local version of hell for it).

    Since the bank committed the error, the bank should be made to pay for it, not the couple. God knows the sort of loops these poor folks would have had to go through if the error had been in the bank's favour.

  44. Gordon Crawford

    I would invest it

    obviously I would and could not trust the account , somebody can get money in, they can get it out ! I would invest the money [in the bank. if I knew] , that way I could say I would get the extra , for the due diligence in protecting their money. of course if I had it in the "08 CRASH " , I might have shorted them and now be rich !! As for notifying them , have you ever been stuck in a voice mail loop? I like the suggestion that they have to prove it is theirs.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once had a shop pay me for the clothes I bought

    Not quite the same thing, but while I was out shopping with the wife about 10 years back I bought a nice vest in a closing down sale. However unknown to us, the shop assistant deposited the cost of the the vest rather than debiting it.

    We weren't in the habit of checking the balance daily, so it was a complete surprise when a few days later the shop assistant physically accosted my wife as she was walking past the same shop. The shop assistant was very belligerent demanding my wife hand over her debit card and allow them to reverse the erroneous deposit and debit the price of the vest.

    Naturally my wife refused to do anything until she could confirm the shop assistants story for herself. After much arguing, the shop assistant reluctantly escorted my wife to the bank.

    After confirming the error, my wife called me and explained the situation. I was livid when I heard the way they treated my wife, so on my instruction, my wife told the shop assistant to sod off.

    The shop assistant wasn't about to start anything in a bank and left my wife to go call the police so my wife promptly left. We never received any visits from the constabulary and the shop was closed and gone a week later.

    I ended up with a nice vest and the price of it to boot.

  46. Inachu


    Lucky me I found more money than I have ever won.

  47. amadsilentthirst

    Black or Red?

    It may be an idea to take the windfall to a casino, put it all on Black and let it spin,

    If it looses, well, the bank is not getting it back, you may go to prison but not for long.

    If it wins, you put the original back into the bank and inform them of the mistake, and keep the rest

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Pratt versus Madoff

    I am quiter surprised that the normally observant & witty Register did not make the point that Pratt was thrown in jail for a "misdemeanor" of $175k [with no person being defrauded] when compared to Madoff who is still on bail despite his $54,000,000k fraud that hurt so many so hard...

  49. Alice Andretti

    Now I have reason to get a passport

    "Blake St. Claire" said:

    "I'm guessing that they don't have passports"

    I knew there must be some reason for me to quit procrastinating and get a passport. That way if my banks screw up, I'll be ready, and I can take the money and run ;)

    Waiting for bank errors now...

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