The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld the fraud conviction of a woman who used a co-worker's debit card to buy pizza and clothes and to renew her driver's license.
Laura Ryan, who used the co-worker's card while on work release from MCI Framingham, had argued that state law explicitly refers to fraud involving "credit" cards and that debit cards are just not the same.
The appeals court, however, discounted that argument and upheld Ryan's conviction as "a common and notorious thief:"
We acknowledge that unlike a credit card transaction, in which a cardholder borrows funds from an issuer for a grace period or longer, a debit card transaction involves no similar extension of credit from the issuer to the cardholder because the cardholder's own funds, not those of the issuer, are drawn upon when the transaction is later posted and money is credited to the merchant. Nevertheless, a debit card transaction does involve an extension of credit at the point of sale and at least until the funds are later deducted from the cardholder's account by the issuer and credited to the merchant's account (through acquiring bank intermediaries). ...
Indeed, debit cards and credit cards are virtually indistinguishable. The same plastic card often functions as both a debit card and a credit card and whether the card is to be used as a debit card (drawing on the cardholder's own funds) or as credit card (obtaining a loan of funds for a grace period or longer) depends entirely on the option chosen by the cardholder at the point of sale. [FN8] The defendant's proposed construction of the statute would render a misuse or fraudulent use of a card dependent on the fortuity that the wrongdoer chose "credit" rather than "debit" at the point of sale. We cannot imagine that the Legislature intended such an absurd result.