People v. Whight
California Court of Appeal
36 Cal. App. 4th 1143 (1995), 43 Cal. Rptr. 2d 163 (1995)
In January 1991, Whight (defendant) opened a checking account, for which he received an ATM card. Within a few months, he had overdrawn on the account. After Whight failed to replenish his account within a certain timeframe, the bank closed his account. But Whight afterwards discovered that the ATM card still worked at certain Safeway markets. Safeway allowed market customers to get cash back when they made purchases with an ATM card. Each time a customer used an ATM card, Safeway’s computer system communicated with Wells Fargo to verify the cards. Wells Fargo would contact the customer’s banks and would issue a code of approval or disapproval to Safeway. But if Wells Fargo was unable to communicate with the customer’s bank, it would simply issue Safeway a stand-in code to approve the transaction. Safeway would issue the money and later verify the ATM card. After discovering that he could obtain money through this system, Whight used his ATM card at four Safeway markets and withdrew over $19,000. Each time, the computer system had an error that caused Wells Fargo to issue Safeway a stand-in code. Whight was subsequently convicted for grand theft by false pretenses.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Sparks, J.)
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