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United States v. Goldblatt

filed: March 11, 1987.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
GOLDBLATT, LYNN DAVID, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Cr. No. 86-00108-01.

Author: Fisher

Before: ALDISERT, Chief Judge, WEIS, Circuit Judge, and FISHER, Judge.*fn*

Opinion OF THE COURT

FISHER, District Judge

Appellant, Lynn David Goldblatt, appeals from a final judgment and order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1344 and 2113(b), bank fraud and bank larceny. Appellant presents three grounds for appeal. First, he alleges that the District Court erred in denying his motions for acquittal, made at the close of evidence and post trial. Second, he contends that the trial court's jury instructions on the elements of the crimes charged were inappropriate. Third, he asserts that the trial court committed reversible error by permitting the Assistant United States Attorney's instructions to the grand jury on the elements of the crimes to stand uncorrected.

On November 5, 1985, appellant, Lynn David Goldblatt, was arrested at his home for Social Security and Welfare fraud. Appellant's son, Lynn, Jr., entered his father's house shortly thereafter and obtained appellant's wallet, which contained two automated-teller machine (ATM) cards and user codes (personal identification numbers or "PIN's") for an account maintained by appellant at the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS). The ATM cards were in the name of appellant and his mother, Ann Heinbock.

Between November 5 and 9, 1985, appellant's son used the ATM cards to withdraw $1,515 from appellant's account. Appellant was released on bail on November 5, 1985. On November 8, 1985, at approximately 10:50 P.M., appellant called the PSFS hotline to report the theft of his cards; the bank accordingly placed a hold on the account as of November 12, 1985. Appellant completed an "Assertion of Error Statement" on November 12, 1985, as required by PSFS in accordance with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1693-1693r). On November 15, 1985, an ATM automatically seized one of the two ATM cards when appellant's son attempted to use it.

On November 22, 1985, ten days after the Statement was filed, PSFS sent appellant a letter asking him to contact the bank regarding his claim. An interview was then scheduled at the bank for November 29, 1985. At this interview appellant was shown six photographs of a young male engaging in transactions at the machine, but claimed he could not identify the person. He continually requested access to his funds, but his requests were denied. He was informed, however, that if he signed an affidavit stating that the withdrawals were not made with his permission and he would assist in the criminal prosecution of the person who made unauthorized use of the funds, he would be granted access to his funds. Appellant signed the affidavit and subsequently had access to $1,415.00 of his account.*fn1 After he reported the loss to the police, he was able to withdraw $900.00 from his account on December 3, 1985. After receiving notification that his son had in fact used the cards, however, PSFS seized the remainder of appellant's account.

I.

Goldblatt now argues that the district court improperly denied his motions for acquittal because the provisions of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act entitle him to the money deposited in his account, notwithstanding his own conduct.

In reviewing a denial of a motion for acquittal, this Court must review the sufficiency of the Government's evidence. "[T]he district court must determine whether the Government has adduced sufficient evidence respecting each element of the offense charged to permit jury consideration." United States v. Giampa, 758 F.2d 928, 934 (3d Cir. 1985); Government of the Virgin Islands v. Williams, 739 F.2d 936, 940 (3d Cir. 1984).

In essence, Appellant argues that he was entitled to the money withdrawn by his son by virtue of Section 1693 of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. This section states in pertinent part:

(a) The Congress finds that the use of electronic systems to transfer funds provides the potential for substantial benefits to consumers. However, due to the unique characteristics of such systems, the application of existing consumer protection legislation is unclear, leaving the rights and liabilities of consumers, financial institutions, and intermediaries in electronic fund transfers undefined.

(b) It is the purpose of this subchapter to provide a basic framework establishing the rights, liabilities, and responsibilities of participants in electronic fund transfer systems. The primary objective of this subchapter, ...


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