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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 24013
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My former roommate used my checking account to pay an electric

Resolved Question:

My former roommate used my checking account to pay an electric bill, after I had already paid my share. He did this online, with an account that I do not have access to. I had no knowledge of this nor did I authorize this. What do I do? What kind of penalties could he potentially face?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hi Jacustomer,

This is identity theft and depending upon how much money of yours he spent, it can be a felony. (Under $500 -- which is probably likely for a utility bill -- would be an A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail).

Additionally, if he hacked into your computer somehow to get to your bank account, New York prosecutes those types of crime as well. This could be Computer Tampering, which can also be an A misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether he used the data to commit a felony or a misdemeanor.

It goes without saying that you are going to want to change your bank account whether or not you choose to prosecute your old roommate. But you could go to the police, report the crime and tell them that you want charges pressed. Any plea or conviction would involve the repayment of your funds.

You could also take him to small claims court if you wanted to proceed against him civilly. The state of NYS provides how-to information for that, and i have linked you to that site.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks so much for this thorough answer!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Also, what sort of documentation should I bring with me to the police precinct when I file charges?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hi,

Sorry for the delay.

They will tell you what they need, if you leave something out. But basically just bring them copies of whatever evidence you have that enabled you to discover what he'd done in the first place.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Great. If the roommate were to write me a check, would this be considered admitting fault? Would it have any bearing on my pressing charges? I am thinking that if you steal, get caught, and pay, it does not change the fact that you stole in the first place...
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hi,

You're correct. The money is a civil issue and is about making the complainant whole. The criminal act is still what it is and it can be punished. This is why stores, for example, are allowed to fine shoplifters, get their money back plus penalties under the civil law, and prosecute anyway.

Fraud/theft has both criminal and civil causes of action and a complainant need not pick just one. He can pursue both. If he wrote you a check, you would certainly want to show that to the police and/or the DA, It could certainly be used against him if not as an outright admission than to impeach his credibility if the case went to trial.
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