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United States v. Mafnas - 701 F.2d 83 (9th Cir. 1983)

Rule:

Ordinarily, if a person receives property for a limited or temporary purpose, he is only acquiring custody. Thus, if a person receives property from the owner with instructions to deliver it to the owner's house, he is only acquiring custody; therefore, his subsequent decision to keep the property for himself constitutes larceny.

Facts:

Defendant Mafnas was employed by the Guam Armored Car Service, which was hired by the Bank of Hawaii and the Bank of America to deliver bags of money. On three occasions, Mafnas opened the bags and removed money. As a result, he was convicted of three counts of stealing money from the banks. Defendant challenged his conviction for stealing money in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2113(b), which made it a crime to take with intent to steal any money belonging to any bank. Because § 2113(b) had been interpreted to apply only to common law larceny that required a trespassory taking, defendant argued that because he was employed by an armored car service, which was hired by the bank to deliver bags of money, that his taking was embezzlement rather than larceny because he had lawful possession of the bags when he took the money.

Issue:

Was defendant’s act of taking money from the bags he was supposed to deliver to the banks embezzlement rather than larceny?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed defendant's conviction of stealing money in violation of a federal statute, which made it a crime to take with intent to steal any money belonging to any bank. The Court held that defendant had only temporary custody and his later decision to take the money was larceny because the taking was beyond the consent of the owner, who retained constructive possession until the custodian's task was completed.

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