Is this theft?

I was talking to my coworker, Mick, who’s having a bit of a dilemma. He has a long, troubled history with his brother, Keith. Thanks to unpaid loans, theft and property damage, Keith is indebted to Mick to the tune of almost $20,000. On a personal level, they’ve reconciled, but Mick doesn’t consider the debts repaid. Keith, for his part, has no intention of ever trying to repay them, regardless of Mick’s current financial struggles. Mick reminds Keith of his debts regularly but Keith always has an excuse to not pay, and when cornered on the subject will just refuse. Several months ago, on a “boys night out” type of thing, they went out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Mick had a reloadable gift card on him but not his wallet. There wasn’t enough money on the gift card to pay for their order so Keith uncharacteristically offered to give Mick his bank card number so he could reload the card. Mick thanked him for it and Keith said, “Any time,” which is Keith’s typical response in lieu of an actual “You’re welcome.” The next time Mick went there to eat, the automatic reload option took the funds from the last card used, which was Keith’s. Mick didn’t realize it until later. He never mentioned it to Keith and has reloaded the card using Keith’s funds a few times since, figuring he’ll never get the $20,000 or so that he’s owed, but the $15-25 every other month or so he is able to get is at least a little compensation. As far as Keith goes, while he struggled for a spell, he’s back on his feet financially despite being extremely negligent and irresponsible when it comes to his money. He also eats at the same restaurant all the time, has his own reloadable gift card and, according to Mick, would never notice the occasional additional charge.

Mick is one of my few Catholic coworkers and, this being Lent, he mentioned this to me last week. I don’t know if it’s a real-world example or if he offered it up rhetorically, as he’s been known to do on occasion. I told him that, based solely on the circumstances, how infrequently Mick has reloaded his own card, Keith’s debt and his telling Mick, “Any time,” I’d be hard pressed to refer to it as theft, although I did recommend that he inform Keith of what’s going on. I figured I’d ask for opinions, though.

Of course it’s theft. “Mick” is taking money from “Keith” without “Keith’s” consent or knowledge. That’s the very definition of theft.

  1. Of course.
  2. The law agrees.
  3. Intentionally the pulling money electronically from a bank account that doesn’t have your name on it leaves a permanent trail of a serious offense.

First of all, let me say that I am 100% in agreement with the first two responses. I think it is certainly theft.
However, just to muddy the waters a little, from the CCC:

2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing ...) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.191

One could perhaps argue that Keith refusing the reload of the card, considering that he owes 20000 to Mick would be both contrary to reason and contrary to the universal destination of goods.

Mick is ripping his brother off. Keith needs to call his bank and put a stop to it before his brother charges a birthday party or a boys night out and stiffs him for the bill.

Aaaaand, yes. Fifth poster to say yes, it is theft.

If the card possession were reversed, I am pretty sure Mick would refer to it as theft by Keith.
The “back story” has nothing to do with it.

And if Mick really wants his money back, he can take Keith to court.


I would never do it, because my dad always taught me never lend money to a family member, if you expect to get it back. My brother has owed me $10,000 for about 20 years now. He’s single makes almost as much as I do in a year and is broke. Sounds a lot like Keith. I totally forgot about the money until this post.

From being in Mick’s position I gotta say I fell off my chair laughing at the situation. I agree he needs to put a stop to it for the sake of his conscience. It will come back to haunt him some day. He just needs to accept the fact he will never see that money again.

The funniest part about this situation is, if he is anything like my brother, Mick could reload that card forever, Keith would never know. We just discover my brother had a monthly gym membership taken out of his checking account for 8 years. He quit the gym the 6 years ago. :smiley:

And I’m the baby of the family. :confused:

It’s theft.

That was essentially my take, arguing from a moral, not legal, perspective. I’ve known several people similar to Keith and I would have a hard time mustering any sympathy should any of the people they owe money manage to recover it in such a fashion.

Actually, that brings to mind a situation we had not long after we were married. A family member stole an envelope containing around $100 in cash from us. We knew they had done it but couldn’t prove it. A couple weeks later they stopped by our house. My wife let them in, an argument over the money ensued, they angrily grabbed their coat and left, not realizing that an envelope had fallen out of the coat pocket. It was the same envelope they’d stolen from us and still had around $30 left in it. It was pretty obviously the same one because it had our address and some handwritten notes on it. They called later and asked if we’d found “their” envelope and money. When I told them we hadn’t (which, in all honesty, we hadn’t since it was ours to begin with), they accused us of theft. I personally don’t believe we did anything wrong, which makes it hard for me to condemn Mick from a moral perspective.

Never lend any money to anyone, ever. That is all.

I’ve learned that thanks to some really ridiculous experiences in the past. I no longer give anyone money that I can’t afford, and never characterize it as a loan but as a gift. I figure if our relationship is strong enough that I’m willing to help them (and I can afford it), I’d rather actually help them than have them feel indebted to me. I think Mick learned a similar lesson but in Keith’s case he still expects some form of retribution.

Both of them are thieves. It’s theft on Mick’s part, but I’m sure as shirley not going to let Keith off the hook.

Mick shouldn’t be draining Keith’s account, but at the same time Keith should repay his damn debts.

If I gave somebody $20,000 with the expecation that he’s repay it, and he never did, I would be pissed off.

This surely has to be a hypothetical. If a family member owed me that much money and didn’t want to pay it back I’d not associate with them.

I wouldn’t call what Mick does theft. He is, so long as he stops when the debt has been repaid, simply recovering what is owed him. If the bank forecloses on your house we don’t consider that theft. What is the difference other than foreclosures happen with the assistance of the state?

Now just because I don’t think it is theft doesn’t mean the state won’t. Modern governments tend to favor debtors and those who don’t pay what they owe.

Until you are in the situation you will never understand. Family is more important than money. By you not associating with the one that doesn’t pay you back you are no better than they are.

Matthew 5:43-48
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I wouldn’t call what Mick does theft. He is, so long as he stops when the debt has been repaid, simply recovering what is owed him. If the bank forecloses on your house we don’t consider that theft. What is the difference other than foreclosures happen with the assistance of the state?

Like I said above, I actually thought it was pretty amusing. However, the difference is the signed promissory note that Mick doesn’t have.

A pretty significant difference in the two scenarios: in yours, the money is yours, and you happened to recover it. In the OPs, the money belongs to Keith, who happens to owe money to Mick. Mick is taking something he is owed, but does not own.

There’s a huge difference. A mortgage is a debt that is secured by the property. The debtor has authorized the lender to take back the house if the debtor defaults. Technically, the house belongs to the bank until the loan is repaid.

Mick doesn’t have such a claim over Keith’s funds. He is owed the money, but does not have ownership of Keith’s money, and it is very doubtful that Keith has agreed to let Mick take Keith’s property/money to satisfy the loan.

I don’t think a Christian has to ignore theft, property damage and not paying back loans. I think it is definitely in keeping with the Faith to avoid people who are dangerous and dishonest. This is especially so if you have a family to protect and provide for.

From a legal perspective you are right. But in having the concept of secured loans we are recognizing that a person has the right to take back from a debtor what they are owed. We don’t call that stealing. We call that satisfaction of the debt. Does not having a document or legal framework change the underlying morality? Mick should probably sue his relative and try to get a judgement against them. Then again the law isn’t all that helpful in collecting debts if you aren’t a bank or government agency.

I totally agree with you here. However, in the OP Kieth is Mick’s brother. We are talking about family here. My brother owes me $10K. Just cutting a family member off isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. Like I said in an earlier post, I was taught don’t ever lend money you expect to get back. Especially with family. That’s why I never give that money another thought.

God Bless

Hypothetical or not (I’m not entirely certain), Mick said that due to Keith’s past personal demons (i.e. prison stints, etc.) he doesn’t want to sue because that could lead to further charges being brought against his brother (particularly the theft and the retaliatory property damage), which he definitely doesn’t want. I don’t know about any documentation Mick may or may not have (he seems to have tired of the discussion). I agree that, from a legal perspective, Mick is probably in the wrong but I don’t agree from a moral perspective. One thing he did add before dropping the conversation was that, at one point, Keith had agreed to a payment plan and had supposedly given him a nominal amount before changing his tune. I don’t know if that changes things at all legally speaking (or if it actually happened), but he felt it was worth mentioning.

Like I said before, loaning money is a horrible idea, especially to friends and family. If a spouse is involved, it can be even more complicated. I have another friend whose wife had her dad cosign on a loan right after they were married. Turns out that, during the process, he stole all her info and used it to open a couple lines of credit for himself. They didn’t find out about it until they went to buy a new house and were turned down due to the thousands of dollars in loans “she” had defaulted on. Her dad was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer at the time. He was also broke because he was no better with his finances than he’d been with the ones attached to her stolen identity. Horrible and disgusting but a little more complicated than just suing and cutting ties with him (for her, at least).

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