Should You Punish Greed and Stupidity?

According to Reuters:

A New York man who discovered that millions of dollars had mysteriously appeared in his bank account, and withdrew more than $2 million, has been arrested on charges of grand larceny, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Benjamin Lovell, 48, pleaded innocent on Tuesday to charges that he withdrew money from a Commerce Bank account that had been opened by someone with the same name, prosecutors said.

Lovell had just $800 in his own Commerce Bank account when he went to make a deposit, but a teller, mistaking the Woodlawn account for Lovell’s personal account, told him that his account contained more than $5 million, prosecutors said.

Lovell made multiple withdrawals even though he knew that the money was not his, prosecutors said. He used the money to buy jewelry for his girlfriend and to make several investments, they said.

Lovell is being held on $3 million bail. He faces up to 25 years behind bars if convicted, prosecutors said.

If a 48 year old guy only has $800 in his bank account, he’s obviously thinking this is a sign from God. If he’s not going to withdraw and spend it, what else is he going to do? (Apart from the honest thing of informing the bank manager that the money isn’t his?)

But seriously, I think 25 years is too harsh a penalty for this. It’s obviously the bank’s error. He is definitely wrong for spending it, but if I had only $800 to my name and had the chance to make $5 million, I’m pretty sure I’d be tempted to do the wrong thing, even if I knew I might burn in hell for it. He had to have known that he was going to get caught. $5 million doesn’t just disappear without someone realizing its missing.

What would you do if you were in Benjamin’s position? What is a good punishment for greed and stupidity?

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