When the Trade Center towers went down last year, they took with it a link between the city’s Municpal Credit Union and the ATM network it uses. The bank’s data apparently was safe, but there was no way to tell who had how much money in their account at any given time.
As a convenience to its 300,000 members, officers of the MCU made a good customer relations decision: Everyone was allowed pretty much unfettered access to cash. You know about how much you have in your accounts, they said. We trust you. Don’t go nuts.
Fifteen million dollars later…
Sixty-six people who withdrew $7,500 or more beyond what was in their accounts have been arrested and face felony charges of grand larceny, and 35 are being sought for arrest, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said yesterday. In all, he said, roughly 4,000 people are being investigated….
All 4,000 credit union members being investigated overdrew their accounts by at least $1,000, said Dan Castleman, the chief of investigations in the district attorney’s office. Those who were arrested did not take advantage of opportunities to pay the money back. If convicted, credit union members who overdrew their accounts could face up to seven years in prison….
Officials said that more than 540 Municipal Credit Union members made A.T.M. withdrawals that exceeded their account balances by at least $5,000 in the weeks after Sept. 11. More than 1,700 overdrew their accounts by at least $3,000, prosecutors said.
One man, an employee of the Housing Authority, never had an end-of-the-month balance that exceeded $130, prosecutors said. “Nevertheless, he made 53 A.T.M. withdrawals ranging from $20 to $300 each, and charged 101 Visa purchases using his M.C.U. A.T.M. card between September 19th and October 22nd,” according to Mr. Morgenthau’s press release. “The purchases were at stores including Foot Locker, Jimmy Jazz, Joy Joy Jewelry, Bronx BBQ, Hot Booz Liquor and the 216th Street motel.”…
The man’s account balance was a negative $10,378 by the end of October, prosecutors said.