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United States v. Mafnas

Citation. 701 F.2d 83, 1983 U.S. App. 29867.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Appellant, Mafnas (Appellant), was convicted in the United States District Court of Guam of stealing money from two federally insured banks in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section: 2113(b), which makes it a crime to take with intent to steal any money belonging to any bank.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

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 would constitute larceny.


The Appellant 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 separate occasions, the Appellant opened the bags and removed money. As a result, the Appellant was convicted of three counts of stealing money from the banks.


Can the the Appellant’s conviction on the charge of larceny in the District Court stand?


The conviction is affirmed. The Appellant was merely given temporary custody over the bags, to deliver those bags to their final destinations. The Appellant’s decision to later take the money from the bags constitutes larceny because it was outside the consent given by the true owner, who retained constructive possession until the Appellant’s task was to be completed.


The Appellant also made the losing argument that he was a bailee and that there was a contract between the banks and the armored car service. The Appellant argued that the contract resulted in the service having lawful possession, not mere custody, over the bags. However, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted, a bailee who “breaks bulk” is guilty of larceny. So, in the case before the court, under the Appellant’s bailee argument, the Appellant was not guilty of removing the bags but, rather, he became guilty when he broke open the bags to take the money from inside.

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