Free money! Bucks man finds windfall in his bank account and goes on a shopping and lending spree

Posted: July 29, 2012

Joseph Bucci was like "a kid in a candy store," his lawyer says.

One day, the Trevose, Bucks County, man had $35.46 in his bank account. The next day, he had nearly $70,000.

Over the next month, Bucci, 22, spent all but $2,000 of the windfall, buying a used car, a computer, a camera, clothes, furniture, and a dog, lawyer Michael Parlow said Friday.

"He spent a majority of the money helping family and friends," Parlow said. "He lent money to a lot of people."

Now it's time to repay the bank that made the bookkeeping mistake, and he's trying scrape up the money and stay out of jail.

"He's completely remorseful," Parlow said. "He realizes he made a poor choice."

Bucci faces two felony counts of theft of lost property and receiving stolen property. If convicted, his sentence could range from probation with repayment of the money to seven years in prison.

On Thursday, Parlow returned more than $14,000 that Bucci raised by selling some of his purchases, including the car, the lawyer said. Some of the money was from repaid loans, Parlow said.

Bucci also waived his preliminary hearing before District Judge Joseph Falcone on the condition that he apply to a program for first-time, nonviolent offenders.

The fairy-tale-turned-nightmare started March 6, when a bank teller at a Wells Fargo branch near Allentown mistyped two digits of an account number while processing a deposit of $69,300, according to court records.

The money was meant to go from the account of a law office to the account for an estate. Instead, it turned up in Bucci's account.

A week later, Bucci withdrew $12,000 from his account, according to court records. In the next three days, he withdrew $6,400.

Within about a month, all but about $2,000 was gone. Bucci had made withdrawals at ATMs and bank counters, written checks, and made purchases with his debit card, according to court records.

On May 11, a Wells Fargo investigator reported the missing money and Bucci's transactions to Bensalem police. Bucci was charged a week and a half later.

When friends heard that Bucci was in trouble, Parlow said, "they brought the money he had loaned them to Bensalem police to help him out."

That money, about $2,500, combined with the check handed over Thursday and the $2,000 the bank recouped from Bucci's account leaves a tab of about $50,000.

To qualify for the first-offenders program, Parlow said, Bucci must show that he can repay the money and that he has stayed out of trouble. He still has items to sell, and he can save money from his pay as a laborer, the lawyer said.

If he completes the program, his record would be cleared.

"He was a young, impressionable, naive, young kid," Parlow said, "who didn't realize the consequence of his actions."


Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964

or wreed@philly.com, or follow

on Twitter @breedbucks.

Read his blog, "BucksInq,"

at www.philly.com/bucksinq.

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