A criminal defense attorney and the past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,Miles Feinstein, said reading about the Mahwah incident reminded him of one of the first cases he learned in law school, in which the applicable rule of law was “finders keepers, losers weepers.”
But that case, Feinstein said, was different in that there was no way to determine whose property had been lost.
“In these circumstances you have a tremendous amount of money, and you know who it belonged to,” he said. “That’s what takes it out of ‘finders keepers.'”
Especially, he said, because the individual in the white van engaged in the theft of tires a short time after the satchel containing ATM funds so there’s already the implication of criminality.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s an unlawful conversion, a theft,” Feinstein said of the taking of the ATM satchel. “They didn’t make any appropriate effort to return the money.”
After a bag containing $150,000 intended for ATMs was left on a Mahwah lawn, some readers have suggested that if the bag was found by happenstance — and not intentionally left — this should be a case of “finders keepers, losers weepers.”
But while the adage may hold fast on the playground, an ex-prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney both agree that this is a clear-cut case of theft.
Robert Bianchi, former Morris County prosecutor, said any theft of greater than $75,000 is a second-degree crime with a potential prison sentence of five to 10 years.
“There isn’t a first-degree theft charge so if you’re going to steal $75,000, you might as well steal $75 million,” Bianchi said.
Police have said employees of a delivery service stopped at an Industrial Avenue site Monday morning, where one of the employees left the cash-filled bag on the lawn while working inside the vehicle. The vehicle then left, with the workers apparently unaware the money had been left behind, police said.
After realizing the money was missing, the delivery duo returned to the site. In the meantime, however, surveillance video shows that a man in a white van drove up and took the satchel. Police said other surveillance video shows the same man took used tires from an auto repair shop shortly afterwards.
As reported by The Record, police have called the incident “a crime of opportunity” and said the workers who accidentally left it on a curb are not considered suspects. Police have also said the employees have cooperated in the investigation.
Bianchi told NJ Advance Media he’d be skeptical as to the claim that the money had been left by accident if he was in the position of investigating the incident. If others were involved in the case and it was planned out, he said, conspiracy charges could also be a possibility.
Feinstein said he, too, would anticipate the filing of conspiracy charges if others were involved and had planned out the theft.