Here is your ethical quandary for the week:
You deposit a check in the amount of $1,772.50 into your bank account. Yet, the bank loses track of the decimals and credits $177,250 into your account. The dilemma is as follows: Do you and your spouse quit your jobs and move your family to Florida or do you fake your death and go alone?
Well, Randy Pratt from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania chose the former option. Upon discovering that he was a hundred thousandaire, Pratt came to the conclusion that he should move away from there. Florida is the place he ought to be, so he quit his job, both he and Missy -- Melissa, that is, his 36-year-old wife.
Unfortunately, the Pratts didn't spend the rest of their days counting their fortune while lounging around the "cement pond." Apparently, they weren't aware that Florida is part of the United States (an easy mistake to make if you happen to visit the northern part of the state ... or the southern part for that matter). In any event, they must have mighty surprised when they were arrested and returned to Pennsylvania to stand trial on felony theft and conspiracy charges.
In his defense, Pratt is claiming that he initially tried to notify the bank about its error, but he was ignored. He then came to the only logical conclusion: that the extra money in his account was ... and this is a direct quote ... "a gift from God." Let's examine this claim in parts, shall we?
For one, Pratt could not have "tried" very hard to notify the bank about its mistake. From my experience, banks tend to be particularly interested when large amounts of money are at issue, particularly when those amounts actually belong to the bank. At my bank branch, they still tie down the pens. I can guarantee that I would have my bank manager's full and undivided attention if I told her that one of her employees had just given me $175,000 in lieu of the traditional toaster. After all, her bank isn't in the business of indiscriminately passing out large sums of money; that's what Congress does.
Second, how long did he think $175,000 would last? After all, his wife is just 36 years old. She could easily live another 50 years. Therefore, even if they employed the most prudent investment strategy for today's turbulent markets -- burying the money in their backyard -- they would have to live off of $3,500 per year. Unless they were willing to live like those people on the Feed the Children commercials (or worse, a certain legal humorist during the early days of his career), they would have run out of money faster than an American carmaker; except that the American public might have actually felt sorry for the Pratts.
Finally, I have to take issue with Randy's claim that he thought he was receiving a gift from God. Of course, I must confess that I'm not exactly a Bible scholar (or even exactly literate, as evidenced from the numerous typos and grammatical errors on this blog). Nevertheless, I don't remember a single line from scripture that reads: "And I shall pour ye out a bank error that ye shall not have room enough to receive." And even if I did miss such a verse in, say, the book of Numbers, this "gift" might be a little more than the Pratts bargained for, as it is the gift that will keep on giving, at least for say, the next 5-7 years.
In closing, the next time you receive a bank error in your favor, go directly to the bank and give the money back. Do not pass Go and, by all means, do not quit your job and take the B&O Railroad to Florida. As the good book says, "The bank shall know the truth and the truth shall give the legal humorist a blog entry."