ATM heaven turns to hell

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

Call it the case of the cash-spewing ATM.

Larry Paul Dewitt and Isaac Jacob Marleau probably couldn’t believe their luck in 1998 when they discovered the Lake Stevens money-dispensing machine. It didn’t charge their accounts and kept giving them money in amounts up to $200 at a crack.

They’re not feeling so lucky today.

Dewitt, 23, of Everett and Marleau, 24, of Granite Falls were charged Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court with one count each of first-degree theft for making repeated withdrawals from a newly installed cash machine.

The machine still had demonstration software in it, causing it to malfunction, according to court documents.

A total of $90,000 was withdrawn between July 17, 1998, and Aug. 15, 1998, when the mistake was discovered.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives determined that 10 cards were responsible for withdrawal of $75,000. Marleau and Dewitt are charged with making more than 50 withdrawals with their own cards over a total of seven days. Altogether, they withdrew $10,100, court documents said.

The demonstration software kept a record of each transaction by card number, time, date and amount dispensed. It did not actually access the cardholder’s account, said William Joice, deputy prosecutor.

That resulted in no record of a debit to the cardholder’s account and allowed people to make multiple transactions without the usual daily limit, Joice said.

The ATM was newly installed at a McDonalds restaurant located in the 500 block of Highway 9, store owner Ramon Gomez said. He said the company that installed the machine inadvertently left the wrong software in it. The ATM company took the financial loss.

Gomez declined to talk about any details of the case, including who else might have used cards to fraudulently get cash.

However, he said he’s pleased that somebody has been charged. He credited law enforcement for pursuing the case through a maze of bank records and search warrants, something that contributed to the lengthy delay between the theft and Wednesday’s charges.

"When you’re dealing with people’s bank records and search warrants, it’s extremely complicated," Gomez said. "For them to have gotten a (criminal charge) is an accomplishment."

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