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ATM glitch gives homeless man $37,000

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (WGME) -- It's something we've all imagined at one time or another, going to an ATM and having the machine mistakenly spit out thousands of dollars. Never happens, right? Guess what? It did happen at a bank ATM in South Portland early Thursday morning.

This all started at one in the morning, when officers were called to a TD Bank branch on Maine Mall road. A transient was inside the bank sleeping beside the ATM. Officers went inside and moved him along. But, he came back.

At 5:30 in the morning, a woman waiting to use the ATM in this bank called police to report a man spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM. When South Portland police officers drove up, they saw this same homeless man inside filling a shopping bag with cash from the ATM. How much? It turns out it's more than $37,000 in cash.

When we told Marcia Giancola about it. She laughed and said "Oh my God, really." John Gorman said "How do you withdraw that much money from the ATM?" And Sarah Howard simply said "Wow. That's a lot of money" and laughed.

I asked South Portland Police Lieutenant Todd Bernard if he's ever heard of anything like this. He said "No, this is a first." Lt. Bernard says police have dealt with this homeless man before. Lt. Bernard says the man used his bank card to withdraw $140 from his account, but then kept going. And the ATM just kept giving him money.

Lt. Bernard says "He was using his bank card to request more money, yes." We responded "And it gave it to him." And he said "Yes." Police say the bank determined that a glitch enabled the man to withdraw over $37,000 in cash. Police say they gave the money back to the bank and say the bank didn't want to press charges.

Sarah Howard, from Buxton, says "I think that's really nice of them, and I think it's the right thing to do. Obviously he was kind of tricking the system a little bit. But it was partially their fault for not having the right security on it." And Marcia Giancola, from Brunswick, says "If the bank was giving it, he wasn't stealing it. He was just playing the slot machine, so to speak."

As for that ATM, it was out of service today.  A TD Bank spokesman tells us "Due to a code error, this TD Bank ATM dispensed an incorrect amount of cash to a customer." He says no customer accounts were impacted by this $37,000 mistake.

Because no charges were filed, police won't release the homeless man's name. But they aren't ruling out the possibility of charges against him. So how much money do ATM's hold. Most hold anywhere from $10 to $20,000 dollars. But ones near a mall can hold up to $50,000, and ones inside a bank can hold up to $200,000.


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