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December 1, 2010

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Price to pay for stealing from ATMs, says judge

CITY residents tempted to help themselves to some easy cash from a card left in an ATM machine will pay a high price, a judge has warned.

The Changning District People's Court has handled 10 cases of this kind so far this year, compared to only two last year.

"Don't be greedy. Even if you are given probation, you will have a criminal record," said Zhou Yijun, deputy chief judge of the criminal court under the district court.

"Many people knew it was immoral but didn't know they were committing a crime when they took money from others' cards," said Zhou.

They are committing credit card fraud, he warned.

Following a transaction, some ATMs ask the user to indicate whether they want the card returned. But if the cardholder forgets this and walks away, the next person waiting to use the machine can withdraw their cash.

Those found guilty of crime included wealthy individuals, such as private company owners and joint-venture employees.

"I was overwhelmed by greed," said Wu Xiaoshuang, 24, an employee of a foreign company, in a court hearing. "I didn't realize it was so serious and regret what I did."

Wu went to an ATM on Fuquan Road to withdraw money on June 8. He noticed a man left without taking his card. Wu withdrew 13,500 yuan (US$2,021) from his account. He later confessed to police and returned all the money.

Wu was sentenced to eight months in prison with probation of one year on August 19 and fined 20,000 yuan.

In another case, Sun Jiahong, 22, said he thought taking money from a card left by its owner was as "the same as picking up money from the ground." Sun withdrew 17,500 yuan using a card left in an ATM at Zhongshan Park.

His father took him to a police station to hand himself in.


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