Robber’s use of debit card is forgery, COA affirms

July 1, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s claim that he couldn’t be convicted of forgery under Indiana law because using his robbery victims’ ATM cards did not qualify as “uttering a written instrument.”

Adrian Anthony and three other men broke into an Indianapolis home and held a couple at gunpoint while robbing them. He took the husband’s debit card and attempted to retrieve money, but was unsuccessful based on the PIN the man provided. Anthony then took the wife to the ATM and used her card connected to a separate account and was able to withdraw $500. In all, Anthony attempted to retrieve money from an ATM 14 times, only being successful once.

Anthony was convicted of 35 counts relating to the burglary by the jury, including 14 counts of forgery. He argued that there is insufficient evidence to support those convictions because the debit cards used were not forged instruments.

Judge Cale Bradford pointed out that it is not an essential element of the forgery statute that the instrument used necessarily be forged or inauthentic. Impersonating someone else in order to use an authentic written instrument belonging to someone else is sufficient to prove forgery.

“Using a debit card to withdraw money from an ATM is essentially the same as writing oneself a check to cash at the bank. If an individual steals a victim’s checkbook, forges the victim’s signature, and attempts to cash a check, then the individual is clearly guilty of forgery. The same logic applies to an ATM transaction,” Bradford wrote. “Like a signature, a personal identification number is a means by which the bank can attempt to verify a person’s identity and assure that they are authorized to access the account. By using the victims’ PINs, Anthony was attempting to defraud the bank by purporting to be the victims. We agree with the State that distinguishing ATM transactions as Anthony suggests would allow defendants to avoid criminal liability due to advances in technology.”

The case is Adrian Anthony v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1510-CR-1557.


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