It is Sunday as I sit at my computer ready to work on Monday's post. There was a different idea rolling around in my head, but my mind won't leave another matter alone. It darkens my thoughts and leaves my body feeling leaden - even four days after the event.
I am no naif. I know bad things happen. During my years living in New York City, my apartments were robbed five times. You feel punched in gut, invaded, assaulted - even raped, if only virtually – arriving home to find doors or windows broken, possessions tossed in disarray, items stolen. Bile rises as you work your way through police reports, mountains of paper for the insurance company and the tedious work of putting your home in good order again.
You want to lash out - how dare anyone trash your private sanctuary. Even as you remind yourself that at least you were not home to be attacked and injured, you want vengeance, but you are impotent. There is no one to blame. In New York, no robber is ever caught. In time, however, you forget.
Now I have learned there is a worse kind of invasion: when the person who has perpetrated it is known to you - a neighbor, if not a friend.
I live in a tiny condominium. Three apartments, three owners. There is no management company. We three are the management. We three are the board of directors. We three divide the work of upkeep, repairs and other responsibilities of cooperative home ownership.
Among my contributions is banking which is minimal. There is one deposit a month of our three maintenance payments and no more than three or four checks to be written each month. So I was shocked last week to open a bank statement with ten pages containing hundreds of withdrawals, decimating the account.
Assuming there had been a computer glitch, perhaps mixing up the condominium account with someone's personal account, I stopped by the bank the following morning to sort out the problem. After a couple of hours of computation and investigation with a bank official, I was shocked to find that every debit was legitimate, having been taken by my downstairs neighbor (co-owner) who is, as all three of us are, a signatory on the account. As such, he had deliberately obtained a debit card and embezzled nearly $5500, nearly all of the balance in the account.
Crabby Old Lady has told you about this young man before. In my three years in this apartment, he has thought up more abuses than I could ever imagine one person could invent:
- Dozens of loud, all-night parties so that I have never gone to bed knowing I can sleep uninterrupted until morning
- Liquor bottles and cigarette butts from party guests left on the porch and sidewalk, never cleaned up without coercion
- Allowing his dog to crap and pee in the basement and leaving the excrement there for months
- Ditto the backyard
- Leaving the dog to bark for four, five, six and more hours without let up
- Open garbage bags left to rot in the driveway for weeks
- Parking behind my car in the driveway dozens of times and refusing to answer his phone or door
- Advertising his apartment for overnight rental on Craigslist resulting in sketchy characters with keys to the apartment house and their own all-night parties
Little did I know that these abuses and irresponsibility would become minor events – in comparison to embezzlement.
After I informed the third owner of the downstairs neighbor's theft, we consulted with an attorney and the police, and decided on a plan of action to recover the condominium's money. The neighbor and his father, who is a co-owner of the apartment, have been given a deadline to deliver a certified check this week. Should it not be delivered or if it is even five minutes late, I will already be on my way to the district attorney to request an investigation of the embezzlement. The bank has assured their cooperation in any legal proceeding.
Personally, I want the kid prosecuted with or without restitution, but the other co-owner thinks recovering the money is enough and he is undoubtedly correct. I am meaner than many people about those who violate the trust necessary for a civilized society to exist; I support life in prison without possibility of parole instead of the death penalty not on moral grounds, but because I believe people who do unforgivable things to others should suffer for as long as possible.
And thus, I do not think restitution is enough punishment for the co-owner who was entrusted with access to the condominium account. That is only money and I would prefer to have a felony on his record that will haunt the rest of his life. But unless the check is not delivered, I will go along with recovery of the funds as enough.
Our plan is a good one and I'm pretty sure the money will be delivered on time since the father, who says he did not know of the embezzlement, seems worried about the possibility of legal action.
Nevertheless, this dark, deadening dullness has pervaded my waking hours since the actuality of what happened hit me last Wednesday at the bank. It is almost like having a loved one die; I awaken cheerfully each morning, eager for the day – then I remember. And underneath that dullness is seething anger that will not lift.
You would think I'm old enough at 68 to handle this better.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, the story of another, understandable thievery from Friko titled, Stealing Coal.