Want To Burglarize A House With Impunity, Then Nickle-And-Dime The Restitution? It Helps To Be A Bank.

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208 Responses

  1. Darryl says:

    Nice post, Ken.

    "Other people view that response as paradoxical: by the nature of power — any increase in government authority will tend to make things like this more likely, not less likely, because government actors will always have rich cronies."

    So, what should she do? Vigilantism doesn't seem right, either.

  2. JWH says:

    I can't speak to the criminal side of the issue, but I don't necessarily think the bank is out of line in disputing the value of things that were disposed of. I don't think it's reasonable to demand receipts for every jot and tittle that they disposed of, but I don't think it's out of line to look closely at what she claims the objects were worth.

  3. Clark says:

    Unreal.

    Thanks for making the libertarian case against big business.

    I'm less and less thinking of myself as a right-libertarian and more and more as a left-and-right-mashup libertarian.

  4. Newbergguy says:

    Is there a reason she isn't suing them? Seems like the bank did some great harm to her. Not to mention broke a law or two.

  5. Steven H. says:

    @JWH:

    "but I don't think it's out of line to look closely at what she claims the objects were worth."

    Given that they robbed her, and fenced her stuff, they should be sending her a dozen roses plus chocolates every day, buying her new whatever-she-lost (including a new Ferrari and Mink Coat if she claims it), and praying to God Almighty that she doesn't just say, "Fuck it, let's lawyer up and sue them!"

  6. Chris W says:

    @JWH – IANAL, but it seems to me that once somebody decides to start disposing of another person's stuff, the disposer has assumed a certain burden of responsibility. Given a reasonable list by the disposee, the burden of proof ought to be on the disposer when questions of inventory and value arise.

    We're not each obligated to track the value of every one of our possessions. Our only obligation is to not mess with the possessions of other people. Although the bank believed itself to be the owner, that doesn't absolve them of responsibility for what they did in actuality.

  7. Ken White says:

    She was asking for $18,000, after the bank burglarized her house, changed her locks, and threw away all her stuff.

    Only in a society where the populace doesn't give a shit and the government is in bed with the bank would that be anything other than a fantastic deal for the bank.

  8. Doug says:

    Frankly, the bank should have paid the 18k and moved on. I think now that the Streisand effect is about to kick in. Then, its going to be real money.

  9. Perhaps I am confused, but I thought intent was a required element of a crime like burglary. The bank and its subcontractor clearly didn't have the intent to burgle, therefore they did not commit a criminal act, and the police are right not to get involved. This is a civil matter.

    Weren't you just criticizing the police the other day for sticking their noses into a civil matter?

    She should absolutely lawyer up and sue the pants off of both the bank and the subcontractor.

  10. Roscoe says:

    I don't see this as a conservative vs. libertarian issue at all. Conservatives recognize that people form corporations to accomplish things they could not do as individuals, and that regulations that restrict corporations often limit personal freedom. However conservatives are also well aware of the dangers of "crony capitalism" when businesses and the government get into bed together.

    So I don't think that "traditional conservatives" are pro-corporation no matter what. And I certainly don't think that anyone, be they conservative, libertarian or leftist, believes it's okay for banks to commit larceny.

    But are the elements for larceny met? This might be a classic "mistake of fact" that negates the mens rea necessary for burglary or larceny charges?

  11. Deborah says:

    $18K? What fucking pricks. Sorry. I really, really hope she sues them for a load of money just to see them settle. Can you tell I hate banks?

  12. Ken White says:

    @jonathan:

    Perhaps I am confused, but I thought intent was a required element of a crime like burglary. The bank and its subcontractor clearly didn't have the intent to burgle, therefore they did not commit a criminal act, and the police are right not to get involved. This is a civil matter.

    Jonathan:

    If Katie — or you or I — broke into a house and used the stuff there, and our excuse was that we thought it was our mate's place and he said we could crash there, do you think the police would charge first and sort it out later — or shrug their shoulders and write it off as a civil matter?

  13. Andy says:

    My understanding here comes from studying English law, but would they not be guilty as a result of negligence, and as a result, mens rea would not necessarily be needed to be proven, as the actus reus has already been and vicarious liability would cover the bank for the sub-contractors negligence?

    Now I just need to find a massive IANAL sig to go in here:)

  14. Quiet Lurcker says:

    @JWH –

    The way I read it, the bank is entirely out of line if they do anything EXCEPT say something to the effect of 'Yes, ma'am', and pony up. Or (even better) fork over a series of blank purchase orders and not quibble at the cost of replacement for ALL of the lost/missing possessions, even if the replacements cost 5 or even ten times the original. Far as I'm concerned, the bank is wholly responsible for the behavior/qualifications/training of its employees inclusive of mistakes. Sort of, they screwed up, they need to put it right. And any excess in their expenditures chalk up to an expensive lesson in The Right Thing.

  15. If Katie — or you or I — broke into a house and used the stuff there, and our excuse was that we thought it was our mate's place and he said we could crash there, do you think the police would charge first and sort it out later — or shrug their shoulders and write it off as a civil matter?

    It seems patently obvious to me from the facts in evidence, as I think it would to any reasonable person, that the bank did not have the intent to burgle and therefore that the matter is civil rather than criminal.

    In contrast, in the example you gave, the police would indeed have to get involved for long enough to sort out the facts. The difference is that the facts don't need to be sorted out here to know that there was no intent.

    If you want to tell me that there is in fact a crime the police could have charged the bank and/or its subcontractor with that does not require intent as one of its elements — criminal negligence perhaps? — then fine, the police should get involved. But if there is no crime on the books that fits the circumstances and doesn't require intent, then the police are right not to get involved.

    As I (and others) said before, this woman has a slam-dunk civil suit against the bank and its subcontractor, not only for the replacement cost of her property, but also for the pain and suffering they're putting her through, the loss of enjoyment of her home, the cost of alternate housing (you know, some place with a bed), etc. Surely she can find a creative enough lawyer to drive the damages high enough to more than cover the cost of his legal fees and still leave her without any out-of-pocket losses when all is said and done.

  16. HuwOS says:

    I really don't understand this. Why would The MacArthur, Ohio police not get involved? Is it because the burglar isn't an unknown to be found but a known person who admits it, but claims it was a mistake?
    How does that work? Are you sure this "defense" won't work for non banks?

  17. Wondering says:

    18K? That's all?! Holy cow.

    I have nothing more relevant to say. Just that now I fear ever leaving my house in case this bank or BoA or anyone else I'm not a customer of tries to do the same.

  18. Garnet says:

    There was have been notable cases (albeit in Florida) in which homeowners – with a sheriff's order or a court judgment – put themselves in position to claim the errant bank's assets:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9904E5D6123CF932A25755C0A9679D8B63

  19. AlphaCentauri says:

    How do you find out who is on the bank's board of directors? Is it publicly traded? A bank that has such a penny-wise/pound-foolish management is destined to collapse in its own incompetence. How much will they spend on marketing to make up for this bad publicity? Why would anyone actually take out a mortgage with that bank — if they can't check the address when they are forcibly breaking into a locked home, why would you trust them to credit your payments to the right account?

  20. Andy says:

    Following on slightly from my non-lawyerly understanding here, the Theft Act 1968 S1 reads theft as dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving them of it. Now I'm not familiar with the American equivalent and how it reads, but if they have trespassed on property, removed and sold property they have no right to be taking, I can see them falling afoul of this definition.

    How different is the definition over there?

  21. Ken in NH says:

    Interesting counter-factual to your overall point. Different state of course.

    Also, your point about corporations being favored by the government would have more force if you could point to some Ohio law that makes the bank immune to prosecution and/or civil suits in foreclosure matters. Failing that, I have to agree with Jonathan, since all of the evidence shows no intent, the police (or the DA) does not have much ability to charge the bank or its agents with a crime, at least not burglary.

    In response to your hypothetical, maybe the police would arrest and charge you or I, but maybe not. If they caught us in the home, certainly they would, but if they were investigating me afterwards and I showed them a slip of paper where my friend wrote down the wrong address, had my friend fill out an affidavit saying he gave me the wrong address, and showed how I took care of the dog or vacuumed the floors (exhibiting an innocent demeanor) then I doubt they would arrest me then and there. They may dig for more evidence to disprove my claims or turn what they do have over to the DA for further review or charge me if I do not make restitution, but otherwise they are looking at a lot of evidence showing my lack of intent.

  22. grouch says:

    …Fascism denies, in democracy, the absur[d] conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress….

    – Benito Mussolini,

    What is Fascism? 1932

    How dare this individual question the State?

  23. AlphaCentauri says:

    Is it still the case that banks try to foreclose properties by surprise, before the owners get tipped off and try to declare bankruptcy? The bank had a mortgage on the home and property, but not the contents of the home. They ought to be required to post a notice on the door notifying the owner of the date they need to vacate. You shouldn't just have a mom come home with her kids and find out they have no clothes or place to sleep that night because the house has been emptied and the locks changed.

  24. Shane says:

    Actually in English law there is "Theft by finding" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft_by_finding, in this case the bank failed to exercise any type of due diligence to ensure that it had the correct property, and it should, under common law, still be considered a crime, as property was wrongly taken from the lawful owner. Arguing that it's an honest mistake doesn't work when someone runs over someone with their car (or loses control of their car and drives through someone's house) but apparently many people are willing to argue that the bank DESERVES to be treated BETTER than a real person. This is one of the major problems with American law these days, corporations (especially those with money) are treated better than real people, and many people seem to be willing to defend that status quo.

  25. DonaldB says:

    My gut reaction is that the bank is right about the objective value of the items.

    But they don't get to make that call. There was extreme negligence involved. $18K seems like a modest amount to put it behind them.

    As a thought experiment, imagine selling everything in your bedroom at a yard sale. The combined contents of your obviously-used underwear drawer probably wouldn't fetch $3. Perhaps not even $1. But if I go to Macys, I see $58 undershirts and $36 briefs (yes, each). At REI there are $60/pair running socks, and $25/pair everyday socks.

    Multiplying that is the replacement effort. My wife is fond of the $20 class of toe socks. But at that price, it's all about color and pattern. Even with no budget limit, they couldn't be replaced with a single shopping trip.

    Sure, the victims are going to end up with new things in place of used (likely crappy and worn out), and they perhaps padded the list quite a bit. But they were victims of theft. The didn't get to choose if that happened, or plan the timing.

    Having your things taken can be deeply painful. It must be even worse if you see that the people that did it are clearly above the law. They aren't considered criminals. There wasn't an investigation. There will be no punishment. They even get to claim you are defrauding them, all with complete impunity.

  26. Roscoe says:

    Johnathan Kamens – I think it is far from clear, much less "patently obvious" that there is no criminal liability here. For a general criminal intent you don't have to know you are committing a crime. Unless the willfulness standard applies the mens rea requirement is met if you are intentionally committing the act that constitutes a crime.

    It is true that a reasonable mistake of fact will negate a criminal intent. But here the address of the home was listed on the mail box and was different than the address the bank agents were looking for. So I am not sure it qualifies.

  27. Renee Marie Jones says:

    … and a libertarian political system solves this how?

  28. Wick Deer says:

    The crime would probably be conversion rather than theft.

    I practice in Indiana, and we have a statute that provides that the victim can bring a civil action for treble damages and attorney's fees. That would take care of the "retail" problem very nicely, thank you.

  29. MelK says:

    I wonder if she has contacted her insurance company about this. Insurance against theft might apply. The insurance company might even be interested in prosecuting on its own behalf, if she made a claim to them.

    Also, there may be some records of purchases available from the pool shop, or the auto places. Check photocopies, perhaps.

    … and the bank should be charged a pretty penny for the cost of locating any such records.

  30. SKT says:

    Presumably, the contractors took everything out of the house, including receipts and/or photos of the property that was STOLEN.

    According to the local coverage on this story, the bank's president is "trying" to come to terms with the woman. He's obviously a jerk (!) or he would have given her the measly 18K she requested and left it at that. My spidey sense tells me he's going to pay more than 18K by the time this is all said and done.

    Thanks for the write-up Ken!

  31. gramps says:

    I seem to recall from a past life that the "breaking" in is something that indicates, can indicate, the intent of that person entering the building; that's CA case law, don't know how OH does it. In CA its the "entry with the intent" that makes it a burglary, the door doesn't have to be locked.

    And have any of these brain-donors ever heard of an address? They tend to be on the outside of the wall facing the street, although they are often found on mailboxes and painted on curbs. Even if not visible, they can often be determined by examining the neighboring buildings for their addresses, then interpolating.

    At the very least the police owe their citizen, who they supposedly protect and serve, a report specifying the claimed loss, identity of the persons involved and an investigation to get some facts into the discussion. It appears they failed in that.

  32. Tarrou says:

    "… and a libertarian political system solves this how?"

    Libertarian political systems being big on property rights, and anti-theft in general, the police arrest the people who burglarize the house as well as the people who gave the orders, the DA works out who can be charged with negligence, theft and so on. A jury decides who goes to jail and who ponies up. They pay full restitution as part of the criminal case and then are sued in civil court for punitive damages.

    Or are you one of those idiots who can't distinguish Libertarians from Anarchists?

  33. darius404 says:

    @Clark

    I'm less and less thinking of myself as a right-libertarian and more and more as a left-and-right-mashup libertarian.

    It's as I said back in your post on left-libertarianism. There is no real need to choose between "left" and "right" orientations in libertarianism (I used to think I had left that divide behind once among fellow libertarians; alas I am wrong and am occasionally accused of being a "cosmotarian" or "right-wing shill").

    There is no need to choose a "side" and I feel the claims of "left" and "right" libertarianism have much more to do with cultural sympathies and sensibilities than with difference in political stances. Since my sympathies and sensibilities lie somewhat with both, and I don't find those s/s to be very meaningful differences politically, I'm perfectly happy to be just plain libertarian, and I'm glad that you seem inclined to join me (as I had hoped you would in my response to your left-lib post).

  34. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    "The bank's attorneys and her attorneys are working to resolve the issue."
    - statement from the bank's CEO, Anthony Thorne.

    In the lawsuit drinking game, I think that statement means you finish your beer.

  35. jaxkayaker says:

    "The government exercises its police power to protect banks — say, by prosecuting someone who draws anti-bank slogans in kids' chalk on the sidewalk — but generally is extremely to exercise its police power to impose consequences on banks, which have money."

    I believe you've left out a word following "extremely" in the quoted passage – "reluctant", perhaps?

  36. JWW says:

    Wow. I can not conceive of a way this woman will not be able to win a six (maybe 7) figure verdict from this in a civil case. Idiot Bank President's response is insane. Upon being asked for $ 18,000 he should have breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, "No ma'am, we can't pay you $18,000. Here's a check for $ 54,000 to cover your costs and replace your stuff."

    A jury, on hearing this case will use extreme vengeance in coming up with the damage award.

  37. cb says:

    He's obviously a jerk (!) or he would have given her the measly 18K she requested and left it at that

    Hell, any thinking man would have rounded to $20k and cut the check ASAP

  38. Tarrou says:

    I'm a layman, so will one of the lawyers about here clue me in….Is there any reason at all why Ms. Barnett couldn't win a staggering civil judgment from the bank? Does she have representation, and if not, why isn't there a line around the block of lawyers willing to take that case to a jury?

  39. Tarrou says:

    Ignore the second question, I see from the article' second page that she has a lawyer and is bringing suit. I hope her lawyer takes it to jury and they give her the bank.

  40. Peter Henry says:

    Anthony Thorne, meet Barbra Streisand.

  41. Clark says:

    @darius404 :

    he claims of "left" and "right" libertarianism have much more to do with cultural sympathies and sensibilities than with difference in political stances.

    Absolutely agreed. I still think that left libertarians are dirty unwashed polyamorous hippies who should get jobs, and I'd far prefer to hang out with the high conscientious, right-thinking, gun-shooting, monogomous, Christian, "real American" libertarians.

    …but that's not to say that either group has a monopoly on the truth.

  42. Clark says:

    @DonaldB:

    My gut reaction is that the bank is right about the objective value of the items.

    But they don't get to make that call.

    There was extreme negligence involved. $18K seems like a modest amount to put it behind them.

    As a thought experiment, imagine selling everything in your bedroom at a yard sale. The combined contents of your obviously-used underwear drawer probably wouldn't fetch $3. Perhaps not even $1. But if I go to Macys, I see $58 undershirts and $36 briefs (yes, each). At REI there are $60/pair running socks, and $25/pair everyday socks.

    Excellent comment; I agree with it in every detail.

  43. grouch says:


    My gut reaction is that the bank is right about the objective value of the items.

    As a thought experiment, imagine selling everything in your bedroom at a yard sale.

    Ever seen flood or tornado victims rummaging in the wreckage? They cry over trinkets, photos, doo-dads — mementos. The objects have little commercial value. The stories behind them are priceless. This makes them irreplaceable.

    First National Bank of Wellston, Ohio ripped out chunks of Katie Barnett's life and converted them to cash. She cannot get justice, but she deserves compensation.

  44. MZ says:

    The thing that strikes me as really odd here is the bank's claim that the house was basically empty, containing really just the dressers, and had an unlocked door and utilities shut off. We already know that there were beds (which the bank left, how kind of them), pool supplies, patio furniture, and a bunch of pretty sizable car parts.

    Unless the family lives an extremely spartan existence or packed up all its worldly possessions for a two-week vacation, it's reasonable to ask how this could be. With a three bedroom house and five kids, you'd expect a bunch of toys, a television set or two perhaps, some basic kitchen appliances, plates and glasses, a sofa, maybe a dining room table, etc… Either actual burglars already cleared the place out first, there's something odd going on here, or the bank is utterly full of it on this point. It would be interesting to see what the utility companies say about the utilities having been shut off.

  45. En Passant says:

    Newbergguy wrote Jul 26, 2013 @3:33 pm:

    Is there a reason she isn't suing them? Seems like the bank did some great harm to her. Not to mention broke a law or two.

    Yes indeedy she plans to sue, according to page two of the abcnews.go.com article that Ken linked above:

    Barnett said she has an attorney and plans to bring a lawsuit.

    "We are definitely going to bring a lawsuit," she said. "I gave them a chance and they are not willing to work with me."

    I hope she can collect punitives as well as actuals. I don't think the bank's protestations of "good faith" will have any jury appeal whatever.

  46. delurking says:

    I am baffled by those saying that the replacement cost of the items isn't a reasonable settlement. Are you nuts? The injured party deserves to be compensated for all losses. If you insist that the compensation for the material goods be limited to something like fair market value or some depreciated cost, you should also insist that the bank compensate her for her time, effort, and costs (including travel costs to stores) in replacing the goods, and for her loss of utility for the time she spent without the goods, and compensate her for loss of sentimental items that have little market value, and for her time in figuring out the retail cost and then calculating depreciation, etc. Simple replacement cost of the items is an entirely reasonable settlement offer.

  47. JDM says:

    I think that civil, rather than criminal remedies are appropriate. I put myself in the place of the guys who cleaned out the place.

    I work as a physician. Its a great way to earn a living; and my patients seem to enjoy my services.

    Even though I try to be careful, my humanity forces me to realize that I will eventually make (and unfortunately have made) mistakes that harm people, sometimes seriously. In the aftermath of such a (fortunately rare) mistake, no one need tell me my errors — they are patently obvious to everyone. They are stuff like missing the address on the mailbox.

    Eventually one of my patient's may choose to sue me civilly for a real or imagined error I have committed. This is good — they deserve redress for my errors even if they are unavoidable human errors. A portion of what would be my income each month goes to an insurance company as my payment toward redress of all the insured doctor's errors. It is good that a portion of my (large) earnings should be addressed to compensating some of the harm caused in the course of gaining that income.

    But my state's medical practice act ends my liability with my money and not my freedom. I am not (assuming I stay within some pretty bright lines) liable to be arrested for manslaughter when my negligence results in the death of a patient. If I were required to risk my freedom each day to provide medical care; the cost would be to high — I would leave the profession, and my patients would be deprived of my (hopefully beneficial) abilities.

    This is my problem with using the criminal law here — who do you want to go to jail. The two (probably low-wage) employees who, admittedly, got the address wrong. There was no malice, no evil intent, they were just doing a job and they slipped. It would be hard to jail the bank president — the two guys were given the right address, they just went to the wrong house. The bank president did not conspire to commit a crime.

    Eventually if we want to have a mortgage system, we have to have a means to foreclose on delinquent debtors. We should not require any employee of that system to pay for inadvertent, and inevitable, slips in the performance of their duty with their freedom. (This is the distinction between the "visiting the wrong friends" counterexample. Forclosing on homes is a necessary function of the banking system and there are public policy reasons to not make the risk so odious that it is practically impossible. Visiting absent friends does not carry the same social benefit.)

    I do not think the police are saying nothing was done wrong. I think they are saying that the bank is admitting fault, has a fixed address, and sufficient resources to be forced to redress the wrong. Civil law is fully able to right this without help from the police. For its obstinacy the the bank will pay in both a legal defense and an eventual judgement. I simply do not see a place for criminal law in this dispute.

  48. Jim Salter says:

    Ken, I'm curious – obviously this was horrible, and the bank's response is worse, and I certainly agree that it's criminally as well as civilly a problem… but what, exactly, should the local police DO?

    I'm not being argumentative here, I'm being clueless. How do you arrest a corporation? I mean, crap, the police don't do punishment and they aren't supposed to do arbitration, all they (are supposed to) do is investigate and arrest, to the best of my knowledge. So, if you're the local sherf, what DO you do if a county bank pulls this kind of thing?

    Would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see a followup post on this.

  49. SKT says:

    @ gramps

    Funny, that the ambiguous phrasing "to protect and serve" doesn't include a(n) (obvious) direct object. Seems like a fill-in-the-blank IQ test question to me. However, the shiftiness of the phrasing does sort of match the character of the organization using it, so they should be commended for being consistent(ly shifty).

    @ MZ

    My guess is that the contractors were the ones who initially claimed the house was practically empty. Would be interesting to see the records of the items that were sold, and who exactly profited from the sale of the stolen goods.

  50. wgering says:

    OK, IANAL, but shouldn't the bank and its subcontractors be guilty of (at least) criminal negligence? Seems to me like mens rea would be established by the "reasonable person" test, because a reasonable person would, you know, check the fucking address before breaking into a house.

  51. SKT says:

    @ JDM

    With all (truly) due respect to you, the jerk bank president should be charged with being scruple-less or conscience-less or ethic-less. And if there isn't a law against this "on the books", the OH legislature should make a one-time-use-only law specifically for the jerk – sentence sb 500 hours of community service (I'd love to see him on the side of the road picking up trash. Who knows, he might stumble across some useful junk like a used Bowflex machine).

  52. Zack says:

    @SKT IANAL, but AFAIK:Unless he does it again, that would be unhelpful. If they try to make what he's already done illegal (meaning, make it criminal retroactively), that runs afoul of the "ex-post-facto" clause of the constitution, and would be unconstitutional on its face.

    If they target it too narrowly to where it's clear they're aiming just at him, he might be able to get it struck down under the "no bills of attainder" clause of the constitution.

    Solution here is more speech and work for enforcement of the laws we have already- more laws rarely counteract bad laws but generally merely complicate them. (with a few notable exceptions.)

  53. Myk says:

    Surely there is some form of "unlawful entry" law under which the contractor can be held criminally responsible? If he's too incompetent to verify the address before breaking in, he deserves to be made an example of, and Anthony Thorpe is, by failing to act immediately and decisively, an accomplice. Don't they have an obligation to hold the property for a period of time before converting it to cash? Here in Oz it's a requirement of at least 30 days.

  54. JohnC says:

    I think I found the two employees:

  55. barry says:

    Of course it's criminal. Even if it was the right house THEY STOLE HER STUFF !

  56. MCB says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    Ohio's criminal trespass statute would seem to cover this on the face of it. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2911.21 (see (3), I think the locks on the doors count as a measure "manifestly designed to restrict access."). Burglary in the 4th degree is also possible, but the statute doesn't specify a mens rea (2911.12(B)).

  57. MCB says:

    Ah, apparently the doors weren't locked? Then I would be surprised if the door itself counts as a measure "manifestly designed to restrict access."

  58. MCB says:

    Er wouldn't be.

  59. JRM says:

    Jonathan Kamens is clearly correct. This is not a burglary; they needed to go in with the intent to steal or the intent to commit a felony. Instead, they made a mistake.

    Ken's hypothetical on what would happen if you mistakenly crashed in a house has occurred in the history of mankind. There's a thing in between immediate arrest and shoulder shrug, which is to ask questions. This actually happens.

    (Ken makes reference to the police charging a crime, which isn't correct in most jurisdictions, and this is an important distinction – the police can arrest you, but not charge you. Ken may know Ohio law better than I do.)

    The underlying issue deserves media attention and public shaming of the bank, and it looks like offense of both sorts has been taken. But calling this a burglary as a layperson is ignorant. Calling this a theft and burglary as a criminal defense attorney is misguided. Calling this cronyism by the police is wrong. Encouraging the police to go arrest people who are clearly innocent is wrong.

  60. Zeke says:

    It seems to me, if I remember my tort law cases correctly, that the plaintiff here would be entitled to punitive damages in a lawsuit. In that case $18K as a settlement should look pretty good to the bank. The standard for punitive damages is whatever the judge believes it will take to get the defendant's attention and ensure that they are never tempted to act in that manner again. How much money does it take to get a bank's attention? Add a few zeros to that $18K figure.

  61. Shane says:

    ALL FUNDS IN A "NONINTEREST-BEARING TRANSACTION ACCOUNT' ARE INSURED IN FULL BY THE FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION FROM DECEMBER 31, 2010, THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2012. THIS TEMPORARY UNLIMITED COVERAGE IS IN ADDITION TO, AND SEPARATE FROM, THE COVERAGE OF AT LEAST $250,000.00 AVAILABLE TO DEPOSITORS UNDER THE FDIC'S GENERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE RULES.

    Why would you post this on your main page, in bold and caps? I am thinking that there was a reason Katies' house was burglarized. I am also thinking that if I had deposits in this bank, now would be a good time to move them to another bank.

  62. Allen says:

    The bank has committed at least one chargeable offense, receiving stolen goods. The fact that they didn't know is not relevant. They had a regulatory duty to ensure they were acting with due diligence. The right address is part of that.

    The bank should be reported to the appropriate state banking regulatory agency, as well as the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. At a minimum the bank's corporate officers should be replaced. This will probably happen if it's pressed.

  63. mud man says:

    I don't actually know how you would go about demonstrating that a corporation or a government "intends" any particular thing. Perhaps this is why they are hardly ever subject to criminal prosecution, however bizarre the behavior. Not to mention the difficulty of applying the usual criminal sanction, slammer time. … I think it's kind of sad that defenders of Law seem to feel that "intent" should be required for "responsibility". (Public; Civic, rather than Civil.)

    @Renee Marie Jones: Meebee by reverting to the old Roman system, whereby a business is the personal enterprise. The owner of such an enterprise can be held personally responsible for activity undertaken in their name. An actual person with skin in the game.

  64. Thad says:

    It's government regulation that put an end to child labor and segregation, not to mention putting seatbelts in cars and limiting the amount of arsenic in drinking water.

    "Regulation is bad because corruption is inevitable" strikes me as a weak-tea argument because it can be used as a criticism of absolutely any law.

    Which isn't to say your concern about cronyism is wrong, by any means — indeed, the government's symbiosis with monied interests is not only possibly the greatest threat to democracy today, it's arguably an inherent failure mode in the very concept of democracy itself. ("The worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.")

    The push-pull of left versus right is, on some level, the power struggle between the state and the aristocracy. And at the moment things have stabilized to the point that both have an increasing amount of power at the expense of ordinary individuals. And this story's as great an example of that as anyone's likely to find.

    As far as a way to get out of this mess, fuck, if I had a working idea of how THAT was possible I'd have shared it by now. I just think of 1984 and Winston's vain hope that the proles will change things — and of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and the aliens who keep voting for lizards even though they hate them, because if they don't, the wrong lizard might get in.

    Then again, I'm with everybody else in the thread in greatly looking forward to seeing what a jury has to say about this.

  65. V says:

    According to the comments on the abc site, banks have insurance against (some?) lawsuits. So could be they're trying to get off cheap by steering toward a lawsuit and having the insurance company pay.

  66. Anony Mouse says:

    Seems this is where homeowner's insurance would step in. I don't know about Katie, but I know that my insurerers would curb-stomp the bank into submission in about ten seconds flat.

  67. LW says:

    Maybe I missed something, but where did the bank get the right to dispose of all the debtor's property on the spot anyway? Even if she had been the debtor, would the mortgage have given the bank the right to take everything, including personal items of no financial value, sell what they could and destroy the rest?

  68. Votre says:

    Things like this continue because not enough persistent stink gets generated from it. Businesses pressure the injured and get them to accept an out of court settlement with a gag clause. Police develop their own internal policies that often fly in the face of actual law and selectively enforce what and as they will. (Are the two repo agents who did the break-in moonlighting cops or former cops? I'm guessing there's some tie-in somewhere considering how the police have washed their hands of the entire incident.)

    Maybe it's time to make an offer of the dreaded Popehat Signal to Ms. Barnette before the bank convinces her it's just easier to accept a quick settlement from them?

  69. Pickwick says:

    I hope she can find representation and take them for several times that $18,000. This is outrageous.

  70. @mud man: A thought occurs to me. Perhaps this lack of intent, this absence of personal responsibility, is the thing that draws people to collectives in the first place. Flawed humans like ourselves do like to avoid responsibility if we can. "He started it!", "Just following orders.", that sort of thing. Joining a collective allows you to pass the buck on your actions. In extreme cases, this empowers people to do very wrong things, but the main draw is that it liberates people from having to do the right thing. You get to avoid thinking about the consequences of your own actions.

    "Once rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    "That's not my department", says Wernher von Braun!

  71. JimBob says:

    @JDM

    The civil vs. criminal penalty discussion is interesting, but there's a certain point where even your "mistakes" cross a line into criminal wrongdoing. I don't know what your particular specialty is, but let's pretend you are a cardiac surgeon.

    As an extreme example, imagine that you show up at the OR to perform a triple bypass. The problem is, you're drunk enough that you reek like a Cuervo distillery, and you can barely stand up straight. Despite all of this, you plow ahead with– and botch– the operation, leading to the death of the patient.

    In a case like that, I think criminal liability is appropriate for a few people. You, as the drunk surgeon, crossed the line from "making a mistake" to "acting recklessly". Your nurses, technicians, and fellow surgeons, if they made no attempt to stop you from drunkenly cutting a patient open and trying to tinker with his ticker, have also probably crossed that same line.

    As a physician, you are expected to act with a level of caution and concern for the lives and well-being of your patients at all times. If you're acting with that level of caution and concern, it's reasonable to chalk mistakes up to human nature and declare civil relief a sufficient remedy for those impacted. Market mechanisms like insurance will hopefully help to ease the burden on physicians (while also pushing for reasonable reforms that lessen the likelihood of mistakes: insurance companies can make scheduling and training practices a condition of granting coverage, etc.).

    But when you fail to show the slightest bit of regard for the life and well-being of your patient– doing something objectively dangerous and stupid, despite knowing it's a bad idea– I think that a very strong case can be made for reckless endangerment or (in the case above) manslaughter.

    Does the bank's level of action rise that same level of reckless disregard for Ms. Barnett's property rights?

    To be honest, I don't think that the "burglary" analogy is entirely apt. The very term implies a level of intent, so comparing FNB Wellston's actions to, say, an intentional burglary by Ms. Barnett is… sketchy.

    I think a more appropriate analogy would be this: Ms. Barnett sues First National Bank of Wellston and is awarded a large sum of money– say, several hundred thousand dollars. Being an organization run by complete choads, FNB Wellston refuses to pay. Ms. Barnett, in attempting to collect, secures a lien against the FNB Wellston branch located at 101 East A Street in Wellston, OH. She then goes through further judicial wrangling and forecloses on the lien, obtaining an order from a judge that allows her to enter the branch building, remove all the property she finds inside, change the locks, and take possession.

    On the Saturday after she receives the order, Ms. Barnett proceeds to follow her broken GPS system to the offices of the Chamber of Commerce on Ohio Street. It's only a block away from the FNB Wellston branch, and GPS systems aren't always as accurate as we'd like; anybody could make the same mistake. Ms. Barnett then proceeds to break the lock on the front door, dispose of all of the Chamber of Commerce's property contained in the office, and change the locks.

    Would the police take the same attitude toward Ms. Barnett that they did toward FNB Wellston in that instance? She had a court order, and it was an honest mistake, right? So, according to the police and local prosecutors, the Chamber of Commerce should only be able to seek remedy through civil litigation.

    Would that really happen? I doubt it. Ms. Barnett– despite engaging in the exact same behavior as FNB Wellston engaged in– would probably be arrested on the spot. The cops would claim that Ms. Barnett didn't fulfill her obligation to ensure that she didn't break into the wrong building. Ms. Barnett would almost certainly face prosecution, and the prosecutors would be crowing about it– telling news reporters that this is the sort of thing that happens when people "take the law into their own hands", etc. They'd point to the address differences. They'd point to the recklessness of relying on a GPS instead of the clearly-labeled addresses at each building.

    So, yeah, I think there's a double standard, here.

  72. Bark chewer says:

    It's simple, open the door to the bank. Ask to see this idiot, and shoot him point blank. Hahahahaha, it's called the last laugh. Jerk

  73. GlenH says:

    Ken misspelled "nickel" in the headline.

  74. Clownius says:

    I like the whole not paying retail thing.

    Here in Australia insurance wise everything just about is new for old these days for just that reason. Even some car policies now cover new for old replacement for life amazingly enough.

    Yes as someone pointed out the contents of my underwear drawer may be worthless but the reality is i now need to go buy all new underwear as i have been deprived of mine for whatever reason.

    The bank should have settled for $18k and been happy. The contents of a house when someone has to replace everything will likely cost considerably more than that. I can see them getting at least the reasonable cost of new replacements in court.

    What scares me is the bank felt they could safely deny her claims and be as unreasonable as they liked and she should be happy to accept it was all a mistake and her stuff wasn't worth that much anyway…..

    Seriously when you fuck up own up and do your best to fix things.

    My bet if she does get a judgement they wont want to pay up either. I bet she has a long fight ahead yet.

  75. Noah Callaway says:

    I got a mail delivery failure for the e-mail address provided by that police department webpage (I attempted to e-mail Capt. Mark Schweikert at the listed e-mail captainschweikert@policemail.us). Anyone else experience this?

    Is the webpage just out of date (seems likely given the quality), or did they pull the e-mail?

  76. Shane says:

    Saw another strange thing when I was watching the video. They said that the GPS took them to the wrong address. The lady's house was 514 and the foreclosure house was 509, labeled clearly on the mailbox. And if they used a GPS then they needed an address. This whole mess wrecks of a dead fish.

  77. mud man says:

    I think there is much difference between "collective" in the sense of a neighborhood or a congregation as opposed to an "institution" with a strict epistemology of roles and procedures. In a small town, people know each other's business, know who are the drunks and the troublemakers, and who are the stand-up guys (and gals). It is when the "collective" gets to a certain size where most interactions are not on-going and face-to-face that there are places to hide bad behavior and unfunded side-effects, where a limited definition of "expediency" (in Tom Lehrer's word) rules.

    But this doesn't have to do with questions of "intent" in this case: what the Wellston bank did was shitty, and why should anyone care whether they did it on purpose or from negligence/stupidity? What HAPPENED is a clear violation of PUBLIC order, and a worthwhile government (even/especially one whose [sic] foremost interest is commercialism) should be up front in stomping all over it. (And BTW I've seen a number of stories about banks foreclosing on houses they don't own.)

  78. En Passant says:

    JRM wrote Jul 26, 2013 @8:57 pm:

    Jonathan Kamens is clearly correct. This is not a burglary; they needed to go in with the intent to steal or the intent to commit a felony. Instead, they made a mistake.

    The bank and its agents had the intent to take and carry away Ms. Barnett's personalty. We know that because that is what they actually did.

    Absent some legal defense excusing or justifying the act, they committed larceny; and they had intent to commit that larceny when they broke and entered the Ms. Barnett's dwelling. So a burglary charge is appropriate, as is larceny.

    CEO Anthony S. Thorne and his employees who took Ms. Barnett's belongings may have a defense of mistake of law or mistake of fact, or a defense under some state statute we don't know. Fine. Let them raise their defenses at trial for burglary and larceny.

    Furthermore, a prosecutor worth his salt could characterize bank CEO Thorne's disingenuous attempt to negotiate a civil compromise for the theft as extortion. Thorne demanded Ms. Barnett's receipts, of which the bank had already taken constructive possession. That would be a worthwhile count to stack against Mr. Thorne.

    This is one of those rare cases where the standard policeman's smirking excuse for harassing the innocent actually should apply to the not-so-innocent: you might beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride.

    Ms. Barnett believed someone had burglarized her house and taken her belongings. She reported that to the police. That the police and prosecutor refused to take a report specifying what was taken, tells us everything we need to know about who the police and prosecutor actually "protect and serve".

    The police and prosecutors of Wellston, Ohio protect and serve The First National Bank of Wellston, Ohio , not the people of Wellston or Ohio.

    Book 'em, Danno.

  79. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    "My bet if she does get a judgement they wont want to pay up either."

    I almost hope the bank keeps stalling on making proper payment to Barnett.

    If that happens, this might end up like that case in Florida where Bank of America attempted to illegally foreclose on a house which was bought entirely with cash. Even better, it could end like the case in Pennsylvania where Wells Fargo attempted to force an overpriced home insurance policy and then broke the law by ignoring response letters from the mortgage holder.

    In both cases, the banks owed a significant amount of money due to their own "mistakes". In both cases the people they owed money to went to the courts and police, initiating foreclosure procedures on the banks. It worked too.

    Lots of links if you want them, but you can just google – Nyerges foreclosure (for the Florida case) or vampire foreclosure (for the Philadelphia case).

    Gotta love it when a private citizen has the sheriffs pulling money out of bank drawers for themselves.

  80. Bear says:

    Quiet Lurcker • Jul 26, 2013 @4:00 pm: "EXCEPT say something to the effect of 'Yes, ma'am', and pony up."

    I knew ponies would be involved in this.

    Shane • Jul 26, 2013 @4:39 pm: "…the bank DESERVES to be treated BETTER than a real person. This is one of the major problems with American law these days, corporations (especially those with money) are treated better than real people…"

    That's not a bug; that's a feature of the system.

    @Patrick/Ken/lawyers here: Being too poor to buy a house, and too smart to buy a house that I can't afford, I've never been involved in a foreclosure. Is it normal for the bank to walk in right off and empty the home of all possessions? (I know I've seen news reports of tax and foreclosure auctions and sales that included all the house contents.) I'm starting to wonder if the inept contractors didn't simply help themselves to the contents, figuring the ex-owner would never know the difference, with the bank keeping quiet and that aspect so they won't be criminally liable as accomplices. But… IANAL: Is the hypothetical scenario possible? If so, that's where criminal liability comes in; otherwise, it looks to me like a civil matter.

  81. Bear says:

    Added: Also, I know I've seen evictions where the contents were dumped on the sidewalk (but left behind), where the owner could ostensibly claim his property after being locked out.

  82. wolfefan says:

    I may have missed it in the comments and I apologize if someone else has addressed this, but intent on the part of the bank may not be particularly relevant. It is certainly an unlawful entry, which is a crime regardless of intent. Someone who wanders into another's house under the mistaken impression that it is their own and falls asleep on the couch is guilty of unlawful entry, at least in my jurisdiction.

  83. mud man says:

    Here at the end of the day, too late, too late, it occurs to me to let the bank's local community, the Wellston Chamber of Commerce, know that this is getting national attention and will be seen as a reflection on the business climate in that part of Ohio, and they should have an early chat with Mr. Thorne. BUT nobody out there seems to have a published email address; not the Chamber, not the City. As a hick from the distant sticks, my leverage doesn't seem worth wasting a stamp on.

    But there's a principle here; the local communitarians are the ones who can apply meaningful sanctions.

  84. Clark says:

    @Thad

    It's government regulation that put an end to child labor and segregation,

    It's funny how:

    government regulation created the 40 hour work week … right after improving economic conditions made the 40 hour work week normal.

    government regulation ended child labor … right after improving economic conditions made child labor unnecessary.

    government regulation mandated airbags … right after improving economic conditions made airbags normal

    government regulation created a minimum wage … right after improving economic conditions made higher wages normal

    government regulation allowed women to enter the workforce … right after technological change led to home automation tools and ended brute force labor in the workplace

    In short, at the very best government regulation sees a parade and hops out in front.

    By the way, it's great that lefties saw the problem of the racial digital divide and started working on a solution; hopefully the underclass will be able to take a break from their smart phones and World Star Hip Hop videos long enough to listen to the Ivy League grads explain what the solution is.

  85. MCB says:

    @En Passant,

    Maybe Ohio is unusual, but as far as I know thinking you have a lawful right to the property is a defense to larceny. The bank thought it had a right to the stuff they took, right?

  86. JDM says:

    @JimBob

    1. You are absolutely correct, the criminal immunity afforded to a physician has, and should have limits. Conrad Murray was, appropriately, jailed for his completely wrong-headed treatment of insomina with a general anesthetic outside of an ICU. This was not a slip, there was an intentional choice to pursue a dangerous and inappropriate course. A medical license is not a license to kill — it is a license to be imperfect in a difficult pursuit.

    I don't see that level of ill intent here. The contractors had a device that generally locates addresses correctly. It took them to a home that they thought appeared unoccupied. They slipped in not noting the number on the box, but houses are numbered in many places and some are not numbered at all. This is a slip, which in my mind recommends a civil judgement. The analogy to piercing a physician's immunity might be if they located foreclosures using dowsing rods, psychic crystals, or some other clearly discredited business practice.

    2. I am unimpressed by your "reversed roles" thought experiment.

    a) you cite no authority or example beyond your own certainty that the cases would, in fact, be handled differently. I would treat them the same for exactly the same reasoning.

    b) The reversed roles analogy does not actually reverse the roles. One of my arguments for a civil remedy is specifically that the bank has sufficient assets that are difficult to move or hide. This is an essential prerequisite does not necessarily apply to an individual. (Doctors, contractors, and other professionals whom I argue should be entitled to this criminal deference are often required to prove exactly that — sufficient insurance or resources to pay judgments against them.)

    If an individual were to make a similar error, civil justice might be frustrated by the individuals inability to pay the judgment. Law enforcement activity might be needed to ensure and preserve sufficient assets for a civil vindication. (For example, if you and I are in an automobile accident, the most likely law enforcement response is that the police will make sure that both of us have insurance and then they will let our lawyers duke it out in civil court.)

    3. Lastly, yes there is a double standard, and I am affirmatively arguing for that double standard. I am arguing that certain civic functions (like doctoring, foreclosing on mortgages, and in your example, executing the judgment of a civil court) are sufficiently important that society should choose to enable them by offering criminal forgiveness for inevitable mistakes in their execution. Those professionals should be, civilly, required to compensate the costs of their errors but should not embark on their careers at an unavoidable risk to their freedom.

  87. Steven H. says:

    @JDM:

    " I am arguing that certain civic functions (like doctoring, foreclosing on mortgages, and in your example, executing the judgment of a civil court) are sufficiently important that society should choose to enable them by offering criminal forgiveness for inevitable mistakes in their execution. "

    No, Just no…

  88. En Passant says:

    MCB wrote Jul 27, 2013 @12:25 pm:

    Maybe Ohio is unusual, but as far as I know thinking you have a lawful right to the property is a defense to larceny. The bank thought it had a right to the stuff they took, right?

    They might have that, or any of many defenses constituting mistake of fact or mistake of law. They can raise them at trial, just like any other citizen would have to.

  89. J.R. says:

    A GPS?! Feeble, although a good GPS can put you within about 3m (~10ft), but you have to have a good one, know what you are doing, and care about doing a good job. Alternatively, the bank might want to consider hiring repo men who can read and write. Seems to me if this is a criminal situation, it should be grand theft.

  90. Allen says:

    @J.R.

    In some states a repo agent who reposes the wrong person's property can be charged with grand theft. assuming it meets the value test. It usually doesn't happen unless it's pretty egregious. In California I know that a theft report can be filed with the police for that offense.

    As to the bank, once the property is determined to be stolen, they have just engaged in the sale of stolen property. That's like a bank saying they only engaged in a little money laundering.

    My wife handled fraud and repossession for the bank she worked for before retiring. When I told her this story her comment was, "someone at the bank is going need a good attorney."

  91. Eli Rabett says:

    The bank had no right to the contents of the house. In a good foreclosure they do have the right to the house. It is interesting that there were apparently no Marshalls accompanying the bank employees. Don't they have to be there and serve the occupants??

  92. JWH says:

    Hmph. I see my viewpoint doesn't have much sympathy here. So tell me … if there is indeed a discrepancy between the bank's repo guys' account of what was sold off and the amount that the homeowner claims was sold off … then what is wrong with the bank trying to ascertain which of the two numbers is closer to correct?

  93. JimBob says:

    JDM:

    I understand that you don't consider the comparison fair, and that you would argue that the actions of the hypothetical Ms. Bennett in my hypothetical scenario are not criminal. I disagree.

    As far as not having evidence for my assertion in the hypothetical scenario– you're right, this is my best guess. There have been precious few cases in which a "regular Joe" has foreclosed on a bank, and the embarrassment to the banks caused them to scramble to avoid actual sheriff's sales. But I will point out that, in all the cases I've been able to find, the individuals involved made sure to coordinate their actions with law enforcement and make sure that everything was above board.

    In other words, the private individuals showed a greater level of caution and respect for the property of the banks than the banks did for the private individuals. Probably because it's the right thing to do, and probably because they were scared of being arrested if they just showed up and changed the locks.

    But I have to take issue with the idea that such a double-standard is a good thing. First of all, we already have significant criminal immunity of the sort you mention built in to many of our laws– legislatures and courts try to draw bright lines between "accident", "negligent behavior", "reckless behavior". Accidents and negligence are, for the most part, civil matters.

    But this sort of immunity is not without significant costs. When an action automatically becomes non-criminal by declaring it the result of negligence or accident, those who wish to dodge accountability for criminal behavior will attempt to have it re-classified. So there's a big incentive to move the lines– specifically, the "negligence" line.

    Look at law enforcement and the legal professions. How often does Ken point out, on this very blog, that lawyers are rarely held accountable for bad behavior? State bars rarely sanction their own, and only in the most egregious cases will they do much more than write a stern letter or offer probation.

    And don't even get me started on law enforcement. Just in my own hometown, I've seen cases of cops who literally beat confessions out of suspects, committed multiple counts of perjury, sent innocent people to jail, were PROVED to have committed these acts– and were allowed to keep their jobs and retirements because the police department didn't have a policy explicitly prohibiting officers from committing multiple felonies in the course of an investigation. By any reasonable standard, he should be in prison right now, but the police have moved the "negligence line" so fucking far from any realistic standard that cops can effectively act with impunity.

    Yes, there are secondary regulatory structures for this sort of thing. Like the above-mentioned and often-ineffective state bars. And would you care to guess how many law enforcement certifications were revoked last year? You can count them on one hand.

    Extending or formally codifying the same sort of protections for agents of the mortgage industry is possibly the worst fucking idea in the history of bad ideas related to the mortgage industry. A multi-trillion-dollar industry with billions to spend on lobbying– at the state and federal levels– will move that "negligence line" at light speed. No thanks.

    Besides that, I take issue with the idea of private foreclosure as a "civic function". If it's a civic function, let it be handled by civic authorities– it's called a "Sheriff's Sale" for a reason– who already have the protections you cite. If it's a private function, then let the foreclosure agents be subject to the standards of regular, private law.

    I realize that we disagree on whether or not trusting GPS and ignoring clear markings on the mailbox is "negligent" or "reckless". But extending additional criminal immunity to an industry whose last 5 years have nearly re-defined the word "negligent" strikes me as a really, REALLY bad idea.

  94. Steven H. says:

    @JWH:

    " if there is indeed a discrepancy between the bank's repo guys' account of what was sold off and the amount that the homeowner claims was sold off … then what is wrong with the bank trying to ascertain which of the two numbers is closer to correct?"

    Can you say "punitive damages"? Sure you can….

    If the bank forces this into lawsuit territory, it'll cost them a lot more than the $18K being asked for. They really should be in damage-control mode, not trying to chisel on what is a paltry amount of money for a bank, but a pretty serious one for the homeowner who was robbed by agents of said bank….

  95. Nat Gertler says:

    "if there is indeed a discrepancy between the bank's repo guys' account of what was sold off and the amount that the homeowner claims was sold off … then what is wrong with the bank trying to ascertain which of the two numbers is closer to correct?"

    Having taken someone's stuff and then gotten rid of it, the practical burden of proof lands on you to disprove that it wasn't what was claimed… particularly when the funds requested were within a reasonable range for the sort of thing that might have been gotten in this circumstance. They are asking for more inconveniencing of people whom they have already aggregiously inconvenienced.

    And as a working matter – turning down the request for $18,000 has got them on the local news and running across the onlineosphere as The Bank That Steals Your Stuff. To the degree that one can value a reputation, the damage done appears to be many times what they were asked to pay, and more times the difference between what they were asked to pay and what some third party might have judged as fair.

  96. Ohio’s criminal trespass statute would seem to cover this on the face of it.

    Having read it, I disagree that it is applicable.

    Would the police take the same attitude toward Ms. Barnett that they did toward FNB Wellston in that instance? She had a court order, and it was an honest mistake, right? So, according to the police and local prosecutors, the Chamber of Commerce should only be able to seek remedy through civil litigation.

    This is a specious argument, because whether or not the police would handle the theoretical scenario you described appropriately is orthogonal to whether or not they handled appropriately the actual situation we are discussing.

    I do not deny that there may be a double standard in play here, but if so, then I believe that the standard being applied in this case is the correct one, and it would therefore be the correct scenario to apply in that other scenario as well.

    The bank has committed at least one chargeable offense, receiving stolen goods. The fact that they didn’t know is not relevant.

    This is circular reasoning. If the goods were not taken with the intent to commit theft, then they are not "stolen goods," and therefore the bank is not guilty of receiving stolen goods.

    The bank and its agents had the intent to take and carry away Ms. Barnett’s personalty. We know that because that is what they actually did.

    Certainly not. The bank and its agents had the intent to take and carry someone else's personalty. Your argument that we know their intent from what they did is ludicrous; no one is arguing that the bank actually intended to break into the wrong house and take the wrong person's property.

    It is certainly an unlawful entry, which is a crime regardless of intent. Someone who wanders into another’s house under the mistaken impression that it is their own and falls asleep on the couch is guilty of unlawful entry, at least in my jurisdiction.

    I don't know what jurisdiction you're in and therefore can't comment specifically on the laws there, but according to http://police.laws.com/illegal/unlawful-entry, for example, "Unlawful entry can therefore be defined as an intentional action to violate the rights of person over his/her real property." There's that pesky word "intent" again.

    They might have that, or any of many defenses constituting mistake of fact or mistake of law. They can raise them at trial, just like any other citizen would have to.

    The police make decisions every single day about which crimes to pursue and which to ignore. Prosecutors make decisions every single day about which crimes to pursue and which to ignore.

    It is undeniably true that the police and prosecutors sometimes abuse their discretion. To me, this does not seem like one of those times.

    Remember: the government isn't supposed to put you on trial for a crime unless they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of it.

    No one here has managed to convince me that there is a single criminal law under which the bank or its subcontractor could be legitimately charged and convicted, despite their lack of intent.

    Absent such a law, saying that the police should arrest someone and put them on trial anyway is essentially saying that the police should use their power and position of authority to harass someone who is not actually guilty of a statutory offense.

  97. Steven H. says:

    @Jonathan Kamens:

    Your arguments are persuasive.
    That said, the guys who went to the house were sent to repossess the HOUSE, not the contents of said house.

    Taking the contents (which they had no legal right to do, even in the correct house) might put them a bit beyond the strictly legal…

  98. BethanyAnne says:

    I trust libertarians on government as much as I trust fundamentalists on sex.

  99. That said, the guys who went to the house were sent to repossess the HOUSE, not the contents of said house.

    Taking the contents (which they had no legal right to do, even in the correct house) might put them a bit beyond the strictly legal…

    At least according to this, in Ohio once the foreclosure and eviction laws have been followed properly, anything left behind is considered abandoned property and the bank may do with it what it wishes.

    That page is specifically about a landlord/tenant dispute, not a foreclosure, but I suspect the law is the same in the latter case.

  100. Steven H. says:

    @Jonathan Kamens:

    "At least according to this, in Ohio once the foreclosure and eviction laws have been followed properly, anything left behind is considered abandoned property and the bank may do with it what it wishes."

    What I read when I followed your "this" included the phrase "the sheriff's notice has been served". In the case in question, I didn't see any reference to any sheriff or deputy "serving" anything before the Repo Men broke into the house and started looting it.

    So I'm not sure how that would apply.

    Though it might make the local sheriff/police liable as well, if they sent someone along with the repo guys and didn't figure out the mistake themselves….

  101. Jack Leyhane says:

    The tort of conversion seems applicable here; I agree with the commenter from Indiana.

  102. MCB says:

    "Having read it, I disagree that it is applicable."

    Could you please provide some reason? Seems like this hits all the elements. Let's go through them:

    "(3) Recklessly enter or remain on the land or premises of another, as to which notice against unauthorized access or presence is given by actual communication to the offender, or in a manner prescribed by law, or by posting in a manner reasonably calculated to come to the attention of potential intruders, or by fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to restrict access;"

    So we have a mens rea of recklessly. Going into a house to change the locks without checking the address seems like recklessness to me.

    Then we have entering lands or premises of another. House is a premise, so that's two for two so far.

    Then we have the "notice" issue. As I stated earlier a door or a lock is likely notice for this statute. IE, when there is a door to a home, any reasonable person would be on notice that they aren't supposed to enter that home without right or permission. Notice appears to be designed to shield someone who walks, e.g., through an unmarked open field.

    That's 3/3 and this statute appears to only have 3 elements.

  103. Could you please provide some reason?

    1. I disagree with your claim that the word "recklessly" in the statute provides mens rea for this particular situation. "Recklessness" and "stupid mistake" are not the same thing, either legally or linguistically.

    2. I disagree with your claim that a door or a lock is likely notice for this statute — that seems to me to clearly go against the intent of the statute, given its reasoning.

    3. Even were that the intent of the statute, it would clearly not apply in this case, because obviously when someone is rightfully entering a legally foreclosed property, they expect to have to drill the locks or otherwise break in to do so, so the fact that the house is locked does not constitute notice to them of notice of unauthorized access.

    In other words, your claim that this law is applicable depends on the circular reasoning that it's applicable because the people repossessing the house knew they weren't supposed to break into it, but if they knew they weren't supposed to break into it they wouldn't have.

  104. Clark says:

    @BethanyAnne:

    I trust libertarians on government as much as I trust fundamentalists on sex.

    By this logic I shouldn't trust anyone but Nazis or Stalinists to have a valid opinion on the death penalty.

  105. What I read when I followed your "this" included the phrase "the sheriff's notice has been served". In the case in question, I didn't see any reference to any sheriff or deputy "serving" anything before the Repo Men broke into the house and started looting it.

    I'm sure all the required notices were served quite a while before the bank actually repossessed the house.

    We have been given no reason to believe that the bank did not follow all of the legally required procedures up until the point where they broke into the wrong house.

    Please note that, given how many people have been walking away from underwater mortgages and simply leaving their houses, abandoned, for the bank to eventually foreclose on, I am 100% certain that there is no requirement for the bank to serve notice to the homeowner in person immediately before taking possession of the house.

  106. Shane says:

    @BethanyAnne:

    I trust libertarians on government as much as I trust fundamentalists on sex.

    Some context here would be helpful, otherwise … diapers in Quebec seem to be a bad idea.

  107. Shane says:

    @Jonathan Kamens

    "Recklessness" and "stupid mistake" are not the same thing, either legally or linguistically.

    Sorry Jonathan, I disagree completely with this.

    I think that the 70 year old driver that confuses the gas pedal with the brake pedal and mows down a bunch of innocent people would qualify as reckless. Even though him using both feet to drive is just a stupid mistake.

  108. Dr. Wu says:

    I must have mis-read the original post. I could have sworn it said that the First National Bank of Wellston, Ohio broke into a random person's house, stole all her shit, and turned her down when she asked for $18,000 in compensation. But that is simply beyond the bounds of credibility. I must go back and re-read it again.

  109. MCB says:

    Jonathan,

    I have no idea why you think entering a house to change the locks without checking the address isn't reckless. Seems to me a bit like driving without bothering to look in front of you.

    But, let's forget about that because I'm fairly certain there isn't going to be any real discussion on that point. Let me ask this question:

    You are walking down the street and see a house with the door closed. You have no idea who lives there. Would you consider yourself to be on notice, that walking right in probably isn't expected or acceptable to the homeowner?

    Now, I know you are going to say, that isn't the question here. I expect that. This is the internet and you are convinced you are right. But let me say, I think that if your answer to that question is yes, then provided the mens rea element of reckless is present, this is criminal trespass.

    Which, btw, isn't that serious a crime.

  110. grouch says:


    I'm sure all the required notices were served quite a while before the bank actually repossessed the house.

    I'm sure there's a pony in the back of that nice man's van.

  111. glasnost says:

    We have choices about how to react to this sort of thing. Some people say that the answer is more regulation and more laws permitting recourse to the courts, so that banks might be deterred and that people like Katie Barnett might secure legal redress. Other people view that response as paradoxical: by the nature of power — any increase in government authority will tend to make things like this more likely, not less likely, because government actors will always have rich cronies.

    A great post, but seriously, can you tell when you stop making cogent insights about behavior and motives – such as when you're discussing specific events – and when you begin to spout hand-wavey, aphoristic claptrap? Here, quick thought experiment – how on earth would a more minimal state make this event less likely to happen?
    How did excessive government power contribute to this event? The bank has all the power it needs as an autonomous entity to break into the house, take the stuff, and give the lady the finger when she wants it back. Some people say that the court system and having laws against this are the answer, while others say…. what exactly do the others say, huh? Shall we whine about it on blogs?

    Furthermore, 'minimal state' means, in practice, 'less enforcing of laws'. Maybe it doesn't look that way on a whiteboard, but when you sharply reduce government, what you actually get is less law enforcement generally, and especially less law enforcement of anyone who can fight back, like a bank.

    The innate tendency of some people to see it as not a crime if a company is just doing company stuff is why general anti-theft laws clearly aren't enough here, and laws/regulations specifically targeted to these situations are needed. Basically, the law has to literally spell out "yes, when you, as a corporation, fail to use obviously available information and repossess property you don't own, you are criminally guilty of (insert your preferred level of sanction here). And if the police department still does nothing – well, time to bring back the citizen's arrest.

    Making a government weaker only accelerates and sharpens the need to punish weak actors instead of stronger ones. That's the correct version of your natural law.

    While I am here – civil suits cost money. The world where civil suits serve as adequate redress for serious violations of property is a world where legal cases are free. In a town with a police HQ with attitudes like this, if you were to file a civil suit against this bank, why not just accidentally seize the bank account required to file the civil suit as well? Why not?

    This blog is better than facile sophistry like "hey man, laws are a waste of time because government is corrupt." From a bunch of lawyers, no less.

    There's nothing liberal or libertarian about the need to pay to play that exists in our court system. Show me a judicial system that actually functions for non-millionaires, and i'll show you a neccessary but not sufficient condition for a libertarian polity that isn't a stinking cloud of accidental house repossessions. Oh course, someone has to pay all the free lawyers.

    J

  112. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    It's the little details of the story that are so fun.

    “And then they called me saying they found a Bowflex on the side of the road if I wanted it. I said no. You know my Bowflex was a Bowflex Ultimate. We paid, like, $2,300 for it; had all the attachments and the feet pieces and stuff. You know I said ‘no, I want it replaced. I don’t’ want – you know – trash found on the side of the road,”

    - quote from Katie Barnett found on 10tv.com (a local Ohio news site).

    According to the same article, she did get her basketball hoop back. The contractors gave it to her neighbors who returned it to her so…. yay?

  113. En Passant says:

    Jonathan Kamens wrote Jul 27, 2013 @5:17 pm:

    [I wrote:]
    The bank and its agents had the intent to take and carry away Ms. Barnett’s personalty. We know that because that is what they actually did.

    Certainly not. The bank and its agents had the intent to take and carry someone else's personalty. Your argument that we know their intent from what they did is ludicrous; no one is arguing that the bank actually intended to break into the wrong house and take the wrong person's property.

    Thorne and his employees intended to break into a house and remove personalty. They ignored the street address and relied on GPS coordinates to locate the house, even though the correct street address was known to them, and another street address was displayed at the house they broke into. Therefore they intended to break into the house which they say their GPS coordinates indicated.

    They disposed of Ms. Barnett's personalty which they had taken from her house. CEO Thorne stonewalled her when she asked the bank to make her whole. He demanded that she produce receipts which his employees had taken and disposed of.

    Let a jury know those facts and decide whether ignoring the street address was a simple mistake of fact that a reasonable person might make, which would negate the intent necessary for burglary. A jury can decide just how reasonable it was to rely on GPS coordinates and ignore the street address.

    All Thorne and his employees would need to do is raise a reasonable doubt in jurors' minds that they intended to commit larceny or criminal conversion when they broke and entered.

  114. Shane says:

    Whelp we have finally arrived. It seems that we have a CAT 4 Striesand.

  115. Ken White says:

    A great post, but seriously, can you tell when you stop making cogent insights about behavior and motives – such as when you're discussing specific events – and when you begin to spout hand-wavey, aphoristic claptrap?

    Please ask the attendant for a refund on your way out the door.

  116. Dr. Wu says:

    I feel reasonably certain that if this case ever comes before a jury, the jury will award Ms. Barnett both of Mr. Thorne's ears, and express their regret that he does not also have a tail.

  117. Jeff says:

    I forget who said "Government exists not to protect citizens against crime, but to monopolise crime." Seems that the bad actors described here are trying to prove the point, if we grant the visible fact that government and the banking industry are extensions of each other.

    That Americans didn't see this coming from when the Federal Reserve Act (gifting the money supply and policy control thereof to private bankers) continually boggles my mind.

  118. BethanyAnne says:

    By this logic I shouldn't trust anyone but Nazis or Stalinists to have a valid opinion on the death penalty.

    Not sure I have that html right. You have successfully confused me about the death penalty and nazis and stalinists. They both killed lots of people and used the death penalty?

    What I was pithily summing up was that I have listened to libertarians for a while. The arguments have gotten formulaic. "Government actor does something bad. Thus government is bad. Let's have 15% less than the absolute minimum. That isn't cholera in the water, it's Freedom!"

    Same thing with listening to fundamentalists when someone misbehaves around sex. "Idiot caught in sex scandal. That's because sex makes us bad! Never naked with your spouse is the only way to purity and Heaven!"

    What I'm getting at is confirmation bias, and the tendency to see every bad act as proof of a larger philosophy. The bank done fucked up here. Then they were asses about it. And the bank president is pretty clearly a special kind of thuggish idiot.

    But … taking that as a proof that libertarians are right about the level of government we should have? Um, wha? I musta missed a step there, Sparky. Mind showing me a couple of examples of libertarian societies running well to prove that? I think we're going from step 1 to step 6, and I understand that you fervently believe that 6 is great. We should all want to be at step 6! See! Step 1 is bad! But, you know, filling in the blanks here would help the credibility a tad.

    Otherwise, all I'm getting is "Libertarian says less government would be awesome!", and that ain't exactly news.

  119. BethanyAnne says:

    I will say, somewhat unrelatedly, that I do think Libertarians are seeing something real that is wrong. Personally, I think there is a crisis of legitimacy going on. I'm not sure how localized it is to America, but that's what I know best.

    I tried the other day to think of any "institution" left that I trusted. Fire departments was all I came up with. That's a really bleak thing for a liberal to admit. I did recently read Chris Hayes' "Twilight of the Elites", and maybe that's what set off this line of thought. I wonder how much it's tied to the labor surplus we've seen since the 70s and the related hollowing out of American prosperity.

    I dunno. I'm not sure that libertarian solutions get us back to prosperity, because I'm not convinced that *anything* at all can. And fixing any sort of abuses or excesses or limitations to freedom is much easier when there is prosperity. Hard as hell to worry about the NSA when your only job prospects are Walmart and Mc'Ds.

  120. AlphaCentauri says:

    It does sound from reading it like the correct home may have already been repossessed, and the crew sent out were supposed to just prep it for sale. It also sounds like there wasn't that much furniture taken from inside the home, but lots was taken from outside, like patio furniture and auto parts.

    The bank's employees claimed that a home where a woman and five children were living was left unlocked and was completely empty of furniture other than the two dressers they took … but the family says they do have other furniture left and are all sleeping in their own beds. Whose story makes more sense?

  121. Re Dr. JDM:

    Even though I try to be careful, my humanity forces me to realize that I will eventually make (and unfortunately have made) mistakes that harm people, sometimes seriously.

    I simply do not see a place for criminal law in this dispute.

    I'm not a lawyer, but consider the following scenario: You're a rushed surgeon scheduled for a nephrectomy whom enters an operating room filled with twelve different patients awaiting surgery.

    Without taking the standard safe steps necessary to ensure that you were operating on the correct patient, you negligently chose the wrong patient to operate on, and removed a perfectly functioning kidney from her.

    Because you didn't follow the appropriate standard of care and were grossly negligent, couldn't that be considered criminal negligence instead of civil negligence?

    I would think the same could be said about not following a standard plan of action and haphazardly choosing the wrong house to foreclose upon.

  122. The business with record-keeping is ridiculous. I could clearly make up false records; just because they're written down doesn't make them true.

    This showed up in your story and it also shows up in certain states' laws regarding lawsuits. Once again if you're a corporation you get the upper hand. Maybe you notify someone you're suing them at the wrong address so they're never apprised that they need to show up in court to avoid a default ruling against them. But if the corporation "has records" showing the defendant's address was [make up whatever they want], then the defendant is considered served. (In some states.)

    This has to be, in my judgement, reflective of the economic status of the interested parties. Poor people move all the time or have no fixed address to begin with, and successful corporations keep records (sometimes completely boneheaded records, but something's written down) on their computers in their fixed offices. No surprise if the government cares more about "job creators" than "deadbeats".

  123. AlphaCentauri says:

    Better link for that "Cat 4 Streisand" story (Shall we start an official "Streisand Scale?" … with references in the foreign press being on the "Extended Streisand Scale," or with them just being ranked higher on the same scale?):
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2379482/Bank-repossesses-WRONG-womans-home-cleared-home-street.html

  124. Jimbo2K7 says:

    "Perhaps I am confused, but I thought intent was a required element of a crime like burglary. The bank and its subcontractor clearly didn't have the intent to burgle, therefore they did not commit a criminal act, and the police are right not to get involved."

    You are very confused. By defeating and changing the locks they clearly intended to gain unlawful entry, and by deliberately removing the contents of the house they were intent on committing burglary. Which they did. There is no mistaking either their intent or their actions.

    Their sheer incompetence does not excuse their actions. Someone ought top go to jail.

  125. Jimbo2K7 says:

    "I'm sure all the required notices were served quite a while before the bank actually repossessed the house."

    In other words, you simply have no idea what you are talking about.

  126. grouch says:

    Thanks for the direct link, AlphaCentauri.

    That "[...] they just assumed [...]" may get them punitive damages.

    [M]alice is "(1) that state of mind under which a person's conduct is characterized by hatred, ill will or a spirit of revenge, or (2) a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of other persons that has a great probability of causing substantial harm."
    Estate of Beavers v. Knapp (Ohio 2008)

    Trashing the wrong house seems to have "a great probability of causing substantial harm" and that assumption based on just unmown grass seems like conscious disregard, to me.

    Might turn out expensive for that bank:
    Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v. Thitchener, 124 Nev. Adv. Op. 64 – Nev: Supreme Court 2008

  127. marco73 says:

    The bank manager tries to make some self serving, face saving statements about the value of the items that woman claims were taken. How someone this dense got to be a bank president is beyond me. I don't know how large/busy his bank is, but it sort of sounds like he tossed this problem to a subordinate and then went golfing, or something.
    They are quibbling about $9,000 (auto parts and exercise equipment) of the $18,000 request. If this bank president had any communicating brain cells, he should have just cut a check for $25,000 right in the spot, and told the woman to contact him personnally of there were any further items missing.
    The family sounds very sympathetic. The bank president sounds cold-hearted. It would be a gruesume mismatch in front of a jury. Doubtful this will ever get into a courtroom; hopefully cooler heads prevail, and the bank can keep it's losses under 6 figures.
    And look for the Board of Directors of the bank put out a want ad for a new bank president real soon.

  128. Shane says:

    @BethanyAnne

    I think that what you are pointing to with Libertarians is that many times it is difficult to put all of the ideas together to show what they are talking about. Most people don't want to hear the ideas, so we use a sort of free hand to sum up the arguments that the debaters don't really care about.

    So I will give a simple example of something I am sure that we have all experienced. The office that has too many rules. We have all seen this. Something bad happens so the manager implements a new rule to cover it. The new rule causes unintended consequences so new exceptions to the rule plus new rules must be made. Then enforcement becomes a problem so a person is appointed to enforce the rules. The newly appointed person likes the paycheck so comes up with still more new rules to make sure that the paychecks keep coming … I am pretty sure all know how this ends (there are multiple possible endings).

    That pretty much sums up the Libertarian view of the State. Take it how you like.

  129. William Burgess Leavenworth says:

    The police in that town must also be on the take to allow that to happen. If that happened to me, those bankers would get free amanita virosa pizza delivered to their offices and homes. This country needs more well-armed, well-educated and devious apolitical vigilantes, and fewer bankers.

  130. Shane says:

    @AlphaCentauri

    Bah, thank you for correcting my link.

  131. Vicki says:

    I don't know exactly what the bank did–they seem to be doing their best to assure that nobody knows–but how can anyone claim that the foreclosure procedures "have been followed properly" when the people foreclosing broke into the wrong house? This isn't a claim of "we sent them all the appropriate paperwork, and gave them time to pay the mortgage, and they ignored it" (which might be procedurally valid even if the person "ignored" the paperwork because s/he was in a hospital somewhere).

    You don't get to redefine correct procedure as "this is how they do it all the time."

  132. Curmudgeon says:

    Any one can file a criminal complaint against a bank; FBI, FDIC, Federal Reserve, State Department of Banking all take this stuff very seriously. If agents of the bank break the law the Bank is liable. If they wanted to avoid this all they had to do is have someone who knew the property show it to the agents.

  133. Quiet Lurcker says:

    @glasnost –

    If I read your comment right, it sounds like you imply that a smaller government brings about a situation in which laws are not enforced as frequently (?) as forcefully (?) as … well, something … as they would be with a larger government.

    I don't think that correlation is entirely correct. A government made of 9 departments, of which 3 are concerned with enforcing law, could (at least in theory – sadly, experience teaches otherwise) survive the loss of up to 6 of those nine departments in toto without the loss of any capacity to enforce law, or enforcing law less frequently.

  134. Ken White says:

    It's interesting, if annoying, that so many people interpret my last paragraph as suggesting I have some sort of Libertarian Secret Plan that would make this come out OK, instead of taking at at its literal value, the word "paradox" and all.

  135. David Schwartz says:

    JWH: "So tell me … if there is indeed a discrepancy between the bank's repo guys' account of what was sold off and the amount that the homeowner claims was sold off … then what is wrong with the bank trying to ascertain which of the two numbers is closer to correct?"

    What's wrong is that the bank, through gross negligence, caused a completely innocent person pain. They should do everything they can possibly do to minimize the continued aggravation and suffering they are causing. Imagine coming back to your house, intending to get a good night's sleep and then go on with your life, and finding all your stuff just gone. The fair market value of the items taken bears no relationship whatsoever to the actual harm they've done, and insisting on paying but the former when they are entirely responsible for the latter is inhuman.

  136. glasnost says:

    Please ask the attendant for a refund on your way out the door.

    I like it here. I choose to hang around, thanks. I'm sure Popehat, as a blog, has the self-confidence to handle even criticisms not wrapped in layers of deference. Or not, who knows. I'm sure the place is more satisfying when no one picks bones with the received wisdom, so if that's the express purpose, than onward, christian soldier.

  137. Ken White says:

    I'm sure Popehat, as a blog, has the self-confidence to handle even criticisms not wrapped in layers of deference.

    Is that code for "I don't know how to make an argument without being a dick?"

    Because I'm completely fine with being disagreed with. I often learn something, and sometimes I change my mind. I'm just generally not inclined to deal with people who might be happier as YouTube commenters.

  138. glasnost says:

    If I read your comment right, it sounds like you imply that a smaller government brings about a situation in which laws are not enforced as frequently (?) as forcefully (?) as … well, something … as they would be with a larger government.

    I don't think that correlation is entirely correct. A government made of 9 departments, of which 3 are concerned with enforcing law, could (at least in theory – sadly, experience teaches otherwise) survive the loss of up to 6 of those nine departments in toto without the loss of any capacity to enforce law, or enforcing law less frequently.

    You've said it yourself, as far as theory vs practice. When Congress wants to make sure a regulatory agency isn't going to take on the more powerful and connected of possible targets, what it does is cut the budget. It's basic behavioral incentives. Regulating people who have the resources to argue with you where it matters is harder than regulating people who don't. Players like games they're going to win and missions that come with victory.

    But removing the regulation entirely does not make predatory behavior less likely. This is like saying that laws against murder are why murder happens so much.

    When someone tasked to enforce a rule has what it needs to feasibly do that, rule enforcement will not be selective based on power.

  139. glasnost says:

    Is that code for "I don't know how to make an argument without being a dick?".

    It would reflect well on me to try not to be a dick, but it would reflect well on others not to focus on lapses into uncharitable characterizations amidst logical argument. I believe in people not having to go to great lengths to be polite, and I don't expect other people to try too hard to be polite to me, if they're not avoiding the point. There's always a point.

    I wouldn't call non-dickism a strength of mine, but it happens amidst excessive zeal in the course of logical argument.

  140. glasnost says:

    It's interesting, if annoying, that so many people interpret my last paragraph as suggesting I have some sort of Libertarian Secret Plan that would make this come out OK, instead of taking at at its literal value, the word "paradox" and all.

    Speaking for myself only, I didn't take the word paradox as indicative of an actual believed paradox. You appeared to go a long way towards labeling 'government power' as the basic cause of this behavior. ('the more powerful the government, the more this happens'). Logically, this implies that removing this government power would make the behavior stop. This isn't a paradox, it's just big government causing banks to rob people through methods not fully explained.

    It would have been clearer as a paradox with a concession that lack of government action was the cause of this happening, or at least not being punished.

    People pointing out that there's no non-government Libertarian Secret Plan to fix this are trying to establish the situation at least as a paradox. The original version, as said, didn't sound like a paradox where both more and less government power would lead to a problem. It sounded like a claim that more government power would lead to the problem, full stop.

    That may have been a misunderstanding, but it's a plausible one.

    To reiterate, I doubt that 'extent of government power' contributed to this specific situation in any way.

    While we're here, it's at this point that talking about 'power' in highly broad terms stops being useful, and specific types of power become very important to differentiate. This local law enforcement branch, it is plausibly argued, doesn't have enough power in one way – resources needed to actually interdict behavior by this bank – and has too much in another, in terms of discretion on how to enforce the law (selectively).

  141. Shane says:

    @glasnost

    A great post, but seriously, can you tell when you stop making cogent insights about behavior and motives – such as when you're discussing specific events – and when you begin to spout hand-wavey, aphoristic claptrap?

    In my world this is called a back handed compliment.

    I have seen some seriously heated arguments on this site, but this particular topic is not one that has generated that type of response, yet … you resort right away to insults. I am thinking that when one of the aforementioned topics arises you might be in for a surprise.

    … it would reflect well on others not to focus on lapses into uncharitable characterizations amidst logical argument.

    The only logical arguments are the ones that are made by yours truly. Check. Be careful with this because even Sheldon gets into hot water with this one.

  142. generalmx says:

    Even in an idealized Libertarian society, there would still be some type of police force, even if it's competing private security forces. In spirit, the police are not only there to enforce the law, but to *investigate* and gather evidence, to help figure out if a law was broken. And often, the police, and judicial system overall, acts as a mediator to try and keep people from committing criminal acts. I believe this was what the original post was trying to emphasize: that when a private citizen such as the chalk-wielding protester pushes the boundaries of the law against a bank, the state is willing to go after said citizen; but when a bank pushes the boundaries of the law against a private citizen, the state is unwilling to go after them. Even when one would think in these two opposite outcomes, radically affecting someone's life by taking all of their possessions, should lend a far more harsher reaction than protesting. Even here, in these comments, we have people with actual legal backgrounds (me not one of them) arguing over the legality of the bank making this type of seeming mistake. If it was a police officer saying "there's no crime here", shame on them, as I'd say that's quite up in the air until *evidence* is collected and analyzed. If it was the prosecutor's office, than shame on them even more, as they are an even more highly politicized office, and yet they were not the ones commenting on whether an investigation would be held. One can argue about how the police and prosecutors can't go after everything that just looks like it might be criminal, but with the state seemingly so shy of prosecuting the banks, I think we at least deserve a more complete explanation of why they're declining to investigate further.

  143. J.R. says:

    I feel reasonably certain that if this case ever comes before a jury, the jury will award Ms. Barnett both of Mr. Thorne's ears, and express their regret that he does not also have a tail.

    I'm pretty sure that jackasses have tails.

  144. Ian says:

    I remember reading about something similar not long ago. Though the wronged party went to the courts and got a court order. When the bank dragged their feet on paying, they went to the local branch with the court order and a lawyer and just started taking things from the bank.

  145. Dion starfire says:

    @JDM There's one problem with your argument that repo'ers should be granted the same limited immunity doctors, lawyers, police officers and the like have.

    Every profession I can think of with that sort of limited immunity (you describe) either has very strict requirements to even begin practicing in it, or is subject to regular and rigorous internal and public scrutiny. If a repo'er wants to spend 6+ years in college or deal with their victims in person (as police officers do every time they arrest somebody), then, maybe they deserve some extra forgiveness for purely human errors.

    As for whether the repo'ers were negligent or simply made a mistake, I'll assume verifying the address as a reasonable precaution (even allowing for the clarity of hindsight), especially since (afaik) the legal authority to seize the property is assigned to an address rather than a set of GPS coordinates. However, I'm willing to revise that opinion if a professional in the field can explain why verifying the address is an undue burden.

  146. En Passant says:

    J.R. wrote Jul 28, 2013 @3:40 pm:

    I'm pretty sure that jackasses have tails.

    If Mr. Thorne is lacking one, there is an adequate remedy for that too [wikipedia link]. Properly administered in the town square, it would provide engaging entertainment for everyone in Wellston.

  147. Deschutron says:

    " I'll assume verifying the address as a reasonable precaution (even allowing for the clarity of hindsight), especially since (afaik) the legal authority to seize the property is assigned to an address rather than a set of GPS coordinates."
    +1
    Using GPS co-ordinates and not checking the address sounds criminally negligent to me. If it was the contractor's fault then leave it to the bank to shift the cost to the contractor — that's not the victim's responsibility to sort out.

  148. James says:

    The bank has a statement on their web site:
    http://ig.libertyonline.net/ImageGallery/Custom/cu1176/PDFs/Announcement.pdf

    The repo team was supposed to "clean and refurbish" the house, yet they left beds and kitchen appliances behind? What kind of crappy cleaning crew is this, anyhow?

    Also, it appears that the list of belongings the homeowner provided on the phone with the bank (which was, of course, recorded) doesn't match the list she later provided in writing. No surprise there. I can't imagine I'd have been able to provide an accurate inventory of my home over the phone, either.

    And supposedly the neighbors said "the home had been vacant for some time."

    There's something fishy here, beyond the obviously wrong and actionable response by the bank when the error/theft was reported.

    Mom and five kids, ages 6 through 18, and there wasn't a metric tonne of miscellaneous stuff to be disposed of?

    The repo men "gave their basketball hoop to a neighbor?" Isn't property removed from a foreclosure supposed to be sold, to defray the costs and reduce the debt?

    As usual, there is SO MUCH MORE to the story than Good Morning America chose to report.

  149. Quiet Lurcker says:

    >Regulating people who have the resources to argue with you where it matters is harder than regulating people who don't.

    True. But, does that absolve the regulator of the responsibility to do so? Perhaps it's irrational, but I'm a big subscriber to the "equal justice for all' theory of law: the rules apply equally to all people, no matter their status or station in life; and if the enforcers can't or won't do so, then as far as I'm concerned, on their heads be it. They've lost their moral authority to enforce the law, and they should step aside in favor of someone who will do so.

    >But removing the regulation entirely does not make predatory behavior less likely.

    Frankly, I shouldn't wonder at that, human nature being what it is.

    >This is like saying that laws against murder are why murder happens so much.

    Partially agree here. I think if you dig far enough, and interpret your numbers and information carefully enough, you will ultimately get down to some hypothetical irreducible minimum number of murders in the population in any given time period; it's human nature. But when new legislation is promulgated, which redefines as murder behaviors which were not included previously, then I suspect you'll see a rise in 'murders' within the population during that same given time period. But, and I will be the first to admit this, this change is only a result of a change in definition.

    To my way of thinking by-the-bye, a situation similar to this is emblematic of a problem with how the laws are written and are being written, meaning it's time for the legislature to revisit the wording of the law, and try to fix what's broken.

    >When someone tasked to enforce a rule has what it needs to feasibly do that, rule enforcement will not be selective based on power.

    Whose power? That of the enforcer, or that of the person against whom the law is being enforced?

    If the former, then I invite your attention to the teacher's pet in the school, or the employee who goofs off at work and gets away with it all the time, because he/she is a good buddy of the boss. Sadly, human nature being what it is, this is all too common an occurrence in all walks of life and more or less at all ages.

    If the former, then I invite your attention to the story of the emperor's new clothes. It's a tale about a young man who spoke out against the social gaffe of the emperor, and was promptly and expeditiously run out of town or a rail, so to speak, not for speaking truth, but for speaking truth about the emperor.

    Like I said, up-thread. I don't advocate the removal of laws. I do advocate the careful revision of laws with an eye toward them doing what they're intended to do, no more, no less.

  150. Quiet Lurcker says:

    >If the former, then I invite your attention…

    Edit to note, I meant "latter".

  151. Thanks to the discussion here and some additional research I've done, y'all have convince me that there's a good case to be made that the people who repossessed the house did so recklessly, and that acting recklessly is sufficient to induce culpability for most crimes in Ohio (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2901.21). Given that, there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and therefore the police should have involved themselves.

    (You have all now witnessed the rarest thing on the Interwebz: someone admitting he was wrong.)

    I do, however, want to point out that if the bank's statement is to be believed, then there are enough mitigating factors that whether the repossessors' conduct was reckless is not cut-and-dried, and it would be reasonable for the police or prosecutor to have concluded that a criminal conviction was unlikely enough not to warrant filing charges.

    For all we know, it may be that the reason why the police haven't taken any further action is exactly not, and not because they are giving the bank and its employees special treatment that is not usually afforded to private citizens.

    I see a parallel in the fact that I don't think the George Zimmerman ever should have been put on trial, not because I know for a fact that he didn't commit a crime, but rather because it seems clear to me that it was impossible for the state to prove that he did beyond a reasonable doubt. A similar calculation may have been made in this case.

    One cannot also help but wonder if perhaps the police and/or prosecutor concluded that there were adequate civil remedies available to the injured party in this case, and that therefore their limited resources were better spent on prosecuting more serious crimes. As I mentioned previously police and prosecutors exercise discretion all the time about which cases to pursue; sometimes said discretion is abused, but it is still not clear to me that it was in this case.

    One more point… I know it's stylish to demonize the big, bad corporation and the police force that's in its pocket, but if you accept for the moment the possibility that the bank is telling the truth, or at least the truth as it perceives it, in the statement linked to above, then it is entirely possible for them to believe, in good faith, that the victim is trying to take advantage of this situation to rip them off.

    Whether or not it would have been smarter, from a PR perspective, for them to let her rip them off for the sake of putting the incident behind them is a reasonable question, but it's a different question from whether they are behaving in an evil or unethical way.

  152. JWH says:

    @Jonathan Kamens:

    Whether or not it would have been smarter, from a PR perspective, for them to let her rip them off for the sake of putting the incident behind them is a reasonable question, but it's a different question from whether they are behaving in an evil or unethical way.

    This is pretty much my perspective. From where I sit, yes, the bank is on the hook for some amount of money. But I see nothing wrong with the bank trying to negotiate the specific number.

    And, yes, if I were in the woman's shoes, I would want the bank to pay for my stuff, and do so as quickly as possible. But the bank has a countervailing interest in ensuring the payout is no more than necessary.

  153. Ashera says:

    … but if you accept for the moment the possibility that the bank is telling the truth, or at least the truth as it perceives it, in the statement linked to above, then it is entirely possible for them to believe, in good faith, that the victim is trying to take advantage of this situation to rip them off

    Yeah, but ripping them off for $18,000? That's chump change in the big scheme of things, especially to replace a household of furniture. In addition, apparently a lot of that sum (I have seen $9,000 mentioned) was to replace engine parts that were disposed of.

    I honestly think that the bank's president thought he could lowball the house owner because she was in a desperate situation (since her house had been ransacked), and has been very surprised by the ensuing shitstorm.

  154. Ashera says:

    Ugh. Sorry about the lack of closing italic tag.

  155. Yeah, but ripping them off for $18,000? That's chump change in the big scheme of things, especially to replace a household of furniture.

    If I were a homeowner in this situation, and I got it into my head to attempt to rip off the bank, then I would try to come with a number I thought was low enough that they'd pay it without flinching, but high enough to make it worth my while to play this game.

    It is possible that both the homeowner and the bank president miscalculated.

    I honestly think that the bank's president thought he could lowball the house owner because she was in a desperate situation (since her house had been ransacked),

    That is entirely possible. It is also entirely possible that the bank president thinks the homeowner is trying to rip him off and feels that he has an obligation not to give in.

    and has been very surprised by the ensuing shitstorm.

    This is probably true regardless of which scenario is the correct one. ;-)

  156. Clownius says:

    Im not sure how cheap furniture and clothing is in the US not to mention whitegoods but i doubt i could replace half my stuff for $18k in Australia.

    I think half the problem is the bank manager should only pay what the goods are worth now not what it will cost to replace them which to me at least sounds considerably more reasonable as she didnt willingly sell the bank her goods and has been wronged.

    They should at the very least replace what she has lost. I stress replace.

  157. RogerX says:

    Emailed the bank:
    "You burglarized a woman's home. It doesn't matter who made the mistake or why. You took over someone else's property. It doesn't matter if you think she's being fair about the price she wants for a couple of car engines. You burglarized some else's home. Tony, wake up. Nobody is buying the press release, even if it's 100% factual. You haven't apologized, owned up, and paid her with a big smile on your face. Your burglarized a woman's home! Pay her the $18,000 and apologize. This isn't rocket science. $18,000 is next to nothing compared to getting lawyers involved. Pay her the money and move on. It doesn't matter that the yard was overgrown and the utilities were off. IT WASN'T THE RIGHT PROPERTY. You burglarized a woman's home. You took and disposed of property that you had no right to. You've now blown this into a full-bore PR disaster, and it's going to cost you a lot more in reputation that $18,000. National news, man. Do the right thing, not the "fair thing" that you imagine that you are doing. You burglarized a woman's home!"

  158. Clownius says:

    *is that the bank manager thinks they should only pay

    My kingdom for an Edit button

  159. MCB says:

    Thanks for being willing to change your mind Jonathan. Not many are.

  160. TPRJones says:

    In a just society, the proper response to this sort of thing would be to give Ms. Barnett a free all-you-can-haul-away visit to CEO Anthony S. Thorne's home. But then we don't live in a just society.

  161. En Passant says:

    I have read the PDF statement linked above (ig.libertyonline.net) allegedly issued by FNB Wellston. From which I quote the last graf:

    Nearly all of the news stories that you may have seen – regardless of whether on television or the internet – appear to have been taken directly from the local television report. Other than CNN, no news media that has rebroadcast or reprinted this story has contacted us to get our side of the story or to verify the claims made on the local station.

    WBNS, 10TV, Columbus, OH had this to say:

    No one from the bank would go on camera with 10TV about the incident. The bank president told 10TV News that the bank is trying to come to terms with Barnett.

    If WBNS is the "local television report" to which the bank's statement referred, then the bank's statement is staggeringly disingenuous. The bank refused to say anything more than issue a statement to the local station. So why should any other media outlet expect them to say anything further about "our side of the story" if contacted?

    If WBNS is not the "local television report" to which the bank's statement referred, then the bank is simply lying.

  162. @En Passant

    When the local TV news station covered the story, it was early on and there wasn't yet a shitstorm of PR about it. Furthermore, there's a good chance that at that time the bank was under the impression that they were still trying to negotiate in good faith with the homeowner. It would have been reasonable for them to simply issue a statement, given what they knew at the time.

    Subsequent to that, when things turned ugly, I suspect the bank would have loved the opportunity to try to tell their side of the story to a wider audience, but at least according to their statement, they were not given that opportunity.

    It does not surprise me that no one from the media tried to contact the bank and give them a chance to respond. Most of the news media nowadays are remarkably lazy.

  163. En Passant says:

    Jonathan Kamens wrote Jul 29, 2013 @9:07 am:

    It does not surprise me that no one from the media tried to contact the bank and give them a chance to respond. Most of the news media nowadays are remarkably lazy.

    If I were a news reporter and the subject of a news story stonewalled me, my colleagues or competitors, I'd get "remarkably lazy" about contacting them further, real fast.

    I might subsequently contact them once, asking for an interview in which they would answer my questions. If they refused, then I certainly wouldn't beg to interview them, or promise to run a story on their terms.

  164. If I were a news reporter and the subject of a news story stonewalled me, my colleagues or competitors, I'd get "remarkably lazy" about contacting them further, real fast.

    There we go again, assuming facts not in evidence.

    If the bank's statement is to be believed, and I've seen no evidence contradicting it, then the bank didn't stonewall anyone except perhaps for the local TV news station. No one else attempted to contact them at all, so it can hardly be said that they stonewalled other media.

  165. Resolute says:

    By failing to respond to the local media when asked, the bank lost the ability to at least partially control the narrative. Bad PR strategy which has quite rightfully snowballed. And, of course, the lament of the downtrodden bank isn't going to win sympathy at the best of times, much less after they almost literally rob someone then act defiant.

  166. En Passant says:

    Jonathan Kamens wrote Jul 29, 2013 @9:49 am:

    If the bank's statement is to be believed, and I've seen no evidence contradicting it, then the bank didn't stonewall anyone except perhaps for the local TV news station.

    You read too much professional intimacy into the phrase "colleagues or competitors". So, I'll rephrase it.

    If I were a professional news reporter, and I saw that the subject of a story had stonewalled any other professional news reporter who sought to interview them, I might subsequently make one request, but … etc.

    If you (ie: the bank and/or the bank official) have become subject of a derogatory news story, you can either answer direct questions from reporters, or you can issue statements, or both. If you choose only to issue statements or press releases, you are by definition telling all of "your side of the story" that you wish to publicize.

    If you want to answer a news reporter's direct questions, you can issue a statement inviting interviews from any news media. Stonewalling a reporter seeking an interview, then issuing a statement or press release whining about the absence of news media coverage of "your side" is unlikely to persuade anyone that you have much of a "side" for news media to cover.

  167. mojo says:

    "I don't think it's out of line to look closely at what she claims the objects were worth."

    Oh, golly, the BANK might be OUT OF POCKET for merely robbing a non-customer blind.

    Suck it up, First Bank.

    *&%$ you. Pay me, as Big Paulie would say.

  168. @En Passant

    I do not agree that lack of responsiveness to reporter A on date A justifies reporter B on date A+something not to bother trying again.

    Relying on someone else's reporting instead of doing your own is lazy and irresponsible. It's how so many false stories spread like wildfire on the internet…. Reporters are more interested in getting salacious stories that will draw page views onto the web fast than they are in getting them right.

    Admittedly, this is a complex problem, and the solution is neither obvious nor simple. We get a lot of benefit out of wire services like the A.P., and arguably, once a story goes out onto the A.P. wire, the whole point is that it has been reported once and it shouldn't be necessary for every A.P. affiliate to report it again.

    I don't know what the right balance is. I do know that it concerns me when new information (the statement from the bank) is available and the story continues to be reported using outdated information.

  169. Trent says:

    I'm surprised at how many of your are defending the Bank. There is no question that if we as a society want a vibrant lending community where people can readily borrow money for homes we need some basic protections and powers extended to the bank. After all a foreclosure is often devastating to the bank with losses upwards of 20% of the homes value. But with those powers come responsibility. The foreclosure process is one of the most regulated processes in real estate. When the bank through negligence abdicates those responsibilities they've voided their contract with society and should be vigorously prosecuted both criminally and civilly. If we allow banks to be above the law well I don't think we have much further to go till the contract we've made among ourselves isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

    Frankly it doesn't matter what the victim's situation was, it doesn't even matter if she lived in the house or even if she's in a foreclosure process herself. What the bank did is criminally negligent and the bank itself should be prosecuted if not it's employees. That settlement offer was very fair and more than likely even in the banks favor. If this happened to me the tab would be upwards of $100k (in property alone) and I would go for punitive and emotional damage. A woman's house is her castle and breaching that castle in this negligent fashion deserves the highest of compensation.

  170. Shane says:

    @Jonathan Kamens

    If I were a news reporter and the subject of a news story stonewalled me, my colleagues or competitors, I'd get "remarkably lazy" about contacting them further, real fast.

    There we go again, assuming facts not in evidence.

    I think the operative word here is "if". I believe @En Passant was speaking hypothetically.

  171. Meh says:

    @Jonathan Kamens

    'intent' isn't a requisite component to acts of trespass and conversion

  172. Ben says:

    She should sue the people who actually broke the locks, went into the house and remove things from it, if not the bank. This will send a message to those contractors working for banks. I do not believe they should be immune being arrested and sued. GPS my eye!

  173. Unix-Jedi says:

    I think it's obvious why the bank isn't just reimbursing her (the bank official's inability to seem at all contrite and apologetic just aggrevates this) is that I bet there's nobody at the bank with the authority to just issue the $20k check.

    Betcha he doesn't have that authority. When I've been around banking places, something like that would have had taken a while to get "corrected" and allocated.

    Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that the police are probably right not to get involved. I still wish they would, but those are good reasons why they haven't.

  174. Resolute says:

    Assuming the bank continues its refusal to properly compensate her, I'm certain that both the bank and the repo company will be on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

  175. Resolute says:

    Well, that was an epic quote fail in response to Ben's post…

  176. spinetingler says:

    "A jury, on hearing this case will use extreme vengeance in coming up with the damage award."

    This made me laugh (evilly) loud enough to wake up the dog, who looked disappointed that I had interrupted her nightly endless-cat-poop-buffet dream.

  177. cmholm says:

    Facts are not in evidence until they are adjudicated in court. The state of mind of the employees cannot be legally ascertained until testimony is given and evidence weighed in court. As a practical matter, the local police, based upon their experience, may elect not to make arrests and/or forward the case to a DA. However, given the scale of the screw up (the value of which was grand theft of the 4th degree territory in Ohio), it would have been reasonable to allow the DA to take a look at it.

  178. Jim Sweet says:

    I'd say give the gal 2 minutes with a fishing net in the cash vault of said bank to collect her restitution.

  179. Andrew says:

    It seems patently obvious to me from the facts in evidence, as I think it would to any reasonable person, that the bank did not have the intent to burgle and therefore that the matter is civil rather than criminal.

    The fact that it's obvious to you doesn't mean there was no intent. I would go as far as to say there was intent on the part of the liquidators the bank sent and although it may not have been the bank's intent, the bank is still liable.

    The crew arrived at the wrong address but under normal conditions it should have been obvious it was the wrong address. The house number was displayed, the street name also, the information was there yet the crew continued despite that. This denotes intent and it should warrant police investigation.

  180. david7134 says:

    Ok, this is not rocket science. The bank is not going to voluntarily do anything. What the woman does is fill out a complaint with the police regarding the agents of the bank. The police must then arrest the men on the basis of her complaint. Then she gets an attorney to sue the bank. She also files on her insurance. Case closed, no need for new laws or regulations. If the police don't act, go to the paper or your sheriff or your mayor or your congressman. You don't talk to anyone, you put everything in writing. Things will happen.

  181. Karen says:

    Regardless of the cost of her possessions she could probably win enough in a lawsuit to not only cover their replacement, but take a few nice vacations in the future!

  182. This is the old-fashioned trespass de bonis asportatis which calls for an replevin action to have the trespasser bring back the specific goods. Don't remember that intent was needed.

  183. cobacoba98 says:

    I did not read the original article at all, but I have to wonder if her attorney wisely is promoting this story for a bigger settlement.

    Because if they are already in discussions over a figure, this would ratchet the pressure for the bank to cave.

    (Which is why they should have given her the $18,000 to begin with.)_

  184. Memories says:

    "she's an honest person"

    Are we sure about that? Because I'm not. Just because the bank stole her stuff doesn't make her into an honest person. She could have easily seen an opportunity to claim more than what was in that house (aka "yeah, I had 3 Mona Lisa's in my trunk when it was stolen Mr Insurance Adjuster!")

    This post in no way excuses the bank for their initial stealing (and it IS theft).

  185. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Memories — I would be more likely to think that if she had asked for more money or claimed more expensive losses, like jewelry. A piece of exercise equipment, some car parts, two dressers, and some outdoor furniture isn't the list I would come up with if I wanted to file a false claim.

  186. Newbergguy says:

    @memories

    A woman, who is a nurse with 5 children is going to have a lot of things. Not to mention photographs of these kids etc. $18,000 to replace stuff for a family of 6 is cheap. So, if she were dishonest she really sucks at it.

    It was flat out foolish of the bank president to let that $18,000 deal slip away.

  187. A woman, who is a nurse with 5 children is going to have a lot of things. Not to mention photographs of these kids etc. $18,000 to replace stuff for a family of 6 is cheap. So, if she were dishonest she really sucks at it.

    Dishonesty and stupidity, even extreme stupidity, are not incompatible.

    It was flat out foolish of the bank president to let that $18,000 deal slip away.

    I 100% agree with you there, for all sorts of reasons.

  188. Clownius says:

    @memories

    I have to agree with the others. If she asked for $50k i might start to wonder. But personally i think $18k is low balling what would have been in your average house.

    Unless of course you believe the bank is right to claim they shouldn't need to pay retail but only what the property would be worth now. Which i think is a piss poor argument.

    Shes most certainly the wronged party here. The bank did the wrong (or was responsible for it being done) here and should be making a big effort to right said wrong. That means replacing the items not saying you wouldn't get that much at a yard sale.

    Personally i think the bank would have a good case to go after the contractors (im guessing they didnt use direct employees) who cleaned out the house for anything they pay out on this case.

  189. I think it's interesting how many people commenting here (and elsewhere on the interwebz) so quickly assume that everything this woman says is 100% honest and accurate, whereas everything the bank says in its defense apparently must be 100% lies and obfuscation.

    The only evidence we have that the bank told her they wouldn't pay "retail" to replace her items is from her. The bank never said that in its statement on the matter. Rather, what it said was a very different thing, that the list she gave the bank of what was taken differed substantially from the list the bank had.

    I think it's also interesting that so many people seem to think it's inconceivable that she might have lied or inflated the cost of her losses, because, they claim, if she were going to do that, she would have asked for much more money.

    As I noted above, if she were going to be dishonest about it, the best strategy would be to try to come up with a number that would be high enough to be worth taking the chance of lying, but low enough that the bank would probably just pay it without question. As many people have noted here, it was monumentally stupid from a PR perspective that the bank didn't pay her $18,000 ask right away, so it is reasonable to suspect that perhaps the strategy I theorized is exactly what she was trying to employ, and the only reason it didn't work was because the bank acted more idiotically than she could have foreseen.

    The bank also claims that when they came to the house, the door was unlocked. I wonder why no one has suggested the possibility that if she was gone for so long that her lawn was overgrown, and her door was unlocked, perhaps the bank was not the only entity that helped itself to some of her stuff during her absence? An overgrown lawn is a big, flapping, red flag for burglars!

    (The reports I've seen also say that, according to the bank, the utilities were turned off in the house. Who turns off their utilities for a two-week vacation? Doesn't that seem a bit odd to anyone else?)

    I am by no means an apologist for big banks or big corporations in general, but I do try to judge scenarios rationally, based on the available facts and evidence, rather than allowing my preconceived notions and views about the entities involved to drive me to conclusions that are not necessarily warranted.

    In my mind, there's no question that the bank made an incredibly stupid mistake repossessing the wrong house. There's no question that, from a PR point of view, the smartest thing to do would have been for them to take their lumps and pay the $18,000 while apologizing profusely and vowing to make changes to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. However, there is a great deal of question about what actually happened, who is being honest and dishonest about it, and whether the bank is doing anything legally wrong by attempting to reconcile their records of what was taken with hers.

  190. Newbergguy says:

    @Jonathan

    All we actually know is that a family of 6 lived there.

    Agents of the bank via contractors repossessed the wrong home.

    Were the contractors honest? Or covering their ass from a large screw up? We only have their word the door was unlocked, and that there wasn't a lot of stuff. And that the utilities were actually off.

    We also only have her word that there was a lot of stuff there.

    However, regardless of the exact contents, a family of 6 does live there. And that the average pay for a nurse in Ohio is 70k. That would indicate some sort of 'normal' home stuff. Plus personal things of sentimental value.

    The bank does have liability, as the contractors were acting on their behalf. And I would also think they could go after the contractors for screwing it up.

  191. babaganusz says:

    not accusing anyone of bank-apologia, but

    so it is reasonable to suspect that perhaps the strategy I theorized is exactly what she was trying to employ,

    of course it's reasonable to have theorized that, but i'm not seeing how reasonable that is to actually suspect – especially taking into account the argument – the only one that i personally feel is beyond any civic-minded refutation – that paying merely for the done-away-with goods at face value (i.e. expecting, say, that Barnett and her 18yo then having to make all of these re-acquisitions is in some twisted mind "the cost of doing business" a.k.a. "the cost of getting shafted by incompetents-at-best") is quite simply inadequate.

    it's definitely sad (convenient?), at least for Barnett's case, that the bunglers reported the door unlocked (which seems a ridiculous oversight for a vacationing [single-parent?] household of 6…) – which IMO is far more 'reasonable' to be suspicious of, considering how easily it can dismissively frame inconsistencies between bunglers' inventory* and Barnett's inventory.**

    * how reliable is anything produced by people who rely on GPS and unmown grass to the exclusion of paying attention to actual addresses – not just the one "the GPS led them to" but that of one neighbor and/or another? even so, allowing one could otherwise expect said inventory to be comprehensive for the sake of their [again, called-into-question] professionalism…

    ** the comprehensiveness of which is unquestionably hampered by the factmy presumption that typical home economics doesn't tend to allow for the possibility that nearly all of your shit vanishes and the party unequivocally responsible demands an accurate list of it – or am i out of the loop that parents usually get Art-of-Memory training to be able to keep track of every item their family owns without said items being at hand, traceable by any [also-absent] recordkeeping, etc.?

    i'm also bemused that we know (or at least are using) Barnett's name and Thorne's name, but not the names of the originally-at-fault nitwits FNB is curiously unwilling to throw under one bus or another.

  192. babaganusz says:

    We only have their word the door was unlocked, and that there wasn't a lot of stuff. And that the utilities were actually off.

    good point – if the bunglers' report is true, Barnett at least is made to look irresponsible with her family's possessions…

    for those who would question why anyone would have their utilities turned off for a two-week family vacation (or maybe it was just someone being too dry, in which case, d'oh!) … 1) is this typically a costly or otherwise inefficient proposition? 2) doesn't shutting off water minimize/eliminate the chance of a freak bursting/flooding incident, not to mention the drain of hypothetical leakage? 3) doesn't cutting off electricity minimize the chance of a freak electrical fire? (true, the house could be filled with battery-op gadgets as well, but…) 4) gas… you get the idea. (one hopes.)

    if all reports have been on-the-face-of-it accurate, i'm waiting for the *facepalm* moment in which it's revealed that Barnett and one or more of the repo-persons were in cahoots.

  193. Perhaps things are much better where this woman lives, but where I live, dealing with the utility companies is always an incredible hassle, and certainly I would consider the trivially small risk of a "freak bursting/flood incident / electrical fire / gas leak" in a two-week period to be far outweighed by the wasted time and inconvenience of getting all those utilities to shut things off at the right time, turn them back on at the right time, and not screw anything up in the process.

    I can certainly envision that not everyone might come to the same conclusion as I, i.e., it's entirely possible that this woman legitimately felt that shutting off her utilities for a two-week vacation was a good idea. It just seems rather odd to me, bordering on suspicious, given everything else that we've been told about what happened here.

  194. azteclady says:

    Trent

    Frankly it doesn't matter what the victim's situation was, it doesn't even matter if she lived in the house or even if she's in a foreclosure process herself. What the bank did is criminally negligent and the bank itself should be prosecuted if not it's employees. That settlement offer was very fair and more than likely even in the banks favor. … A woman's house is her castle and breaching that castle in this negligent fashion deserves the highest of compensation.

    This, exactly.

    What this family lost in memories–photographs alone–may have no set monetary value, but is all the same irreplaceable. Should they receive no compensation simply because there is no market value for it? Should there be no redress for the stress and time and effort involved in replacing what was taken?

    As Trent said just above the quoted bit, it doesn't

  195. Steven H. says:

    @Jonathan Kamens:

    While I agree that shutting off power/water for a two-week vacation is silly, I have known people who do that sort of thing (my inlaws, for one example).

    Which, of course, in no way implies that that any particular side in this particular dispute did this.

    Has anyone bothered to verify when the power/water was turned off? Surely the local utilities keep records of this sort of thing…

  196. Clownius says:

    I guess it depends where you live.

    Im in Australia and nothing would stop me turning off the water at the street main and the power at the fuse box. Heck anybody could in fact do that if i wasnt home to notice the lack of power and water. Its just a simple switch and a tap.

    I would consider the power especially with the price of power if i planned to be away a few weeks.

    In fact thats often how its done with Rentals here. The power company turns the main fuse off at the meter box. When you move in you switch it back on and ring the power company to create an account.

    But at the end of the day i put very little faith in the guys who found a house via GPS and didnt think it having a different street number may be a problem. Who knows what else they missed.

    They burgled the wrong house for crying out loud. It doesnt say good things about their ability to get anything right.

  197. grouch says:


    They burgled the wrong house for crying out loud. It doesnt say good things about their ability to get anything right.

    It certainly makes their list of the contents of the house suspect. Perhaps a few items never made it to the list but instead landed in a pawn shop.

  198. Kathryn says:

    Check wrecking yards for the engines, or eBay, or however people would fence auto parts. If those were whole engines or major parts, and the Barnetts purchased them through a commercial source (not just a guy parting out his car on Craigslist), the seller will have records of the VIN number(s).

  199. babaganusz says:

    i hadn't considered the "ymmv" range of utilities-experience; that does indeed throw another spectrum into the speculation-mix.

  200. babaganusz says:

    the *facepalm* moment in which it's revealed that Barnett and one or more of the repo-persons were in cahoots.

    (or the *facepalmheaddesk* moment involving Barnett, repo and the next-door-neighbor)

  201. Trebuchet says:

    I continue to be surprised that the bank hasn't caved by now. Surely they have liability insurance and the insurance company can't be happy that the eventual price is going up every day.

    One thing I haven't seen mentioned here is that the victim initially thought her husband, from whom she's in the process of separating, had taken the stuff. Of course, now I can't find where I read that.

    Finally, what do you want to bet that the Bowflex machine "found on the side of the road" was actually the one from the victim's house, which was really found in the basement of one of the guys the bank sent to clean out the house?

  1. July 28, 2013

    [...] Popehat, Ken details the astounding story of Katie Barnett, whose home was burglarized by agents of the First National Bank of Wellston, [...]

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