Cabbie's Spree on Money He Got by Mistake Ends in Theft Charge

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A cab driver from Hawthorne took advantage of an error at a Bank of America branch to steal $10,000, then treated himself to a car, a car stereo and a gambling spree in Las Vegas, authorities have charged.

Redondo Beach police filed one count of grand theft Tuesday against Hormoz Mahmoudi, 40, in South Bay Municipal Court.

Mahmoudi, who is free on his own recognizance pending his arraignment next month, could not be reached for comment.

Police say the cab driver told them that he thought his rich father-in-law in London had deposited the money to his account at the Bank of America branch on Hawthorne Boulevard in Redondo Beach. When told the money was not his, the cabbie promised to repay the bank.

But Bank of America spokesman Ronald Owens said in an interview that the bank decided to prosecute because Mahmoudi did not seem to be making a conscientious effort to repay the money.

The case began Sept. 11 when an East Coast bank wired $10,000 to the Bank of America branch. The money was mistakenly credited to Mahmoudi's account, said Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Mike Minard.

The bank discovered its error on Sept. 19 and immediately mailed a letter to Mahmoudi, telling him that the money was being removed from his account, a police report says.

Police said Mahmoudi told them that he did not understand the letter, so he asked a passer-by near his Hawthorne apartment what it meant. Mahmoudi said the stranger told him that he had more than $10,000 in his account, the police report says.

"It made me very happy," Mahmoudi said, according to police.

Mahmoudi believed that the money was a gift from his father-in-law, who had recently visited Los Angeles and offered to establish Mahmoudi in business, the cabbie reportedly told police.

He came to the bank on Sept. 22 and asked how much money was in his account. A teller had to check microfiche records to find Mahmoudi's balance because the bank's computer system was down.

The teller found $10,064 in the account, not realizing that the microfiche listing was a week old. A supervisor checked the record and failed to catch the error, Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin Oghigian said.

Mahmoudi withdrew $10,000, leaving his own $64 in the account, authorities said.

Owens said bank employees went to Mahmoudi's home and called him several times, but they were told that he was out of town.

The cab driver later told police that he had traveled with an aunt to Las Vegas, where he lost $4,000 at the gaming tables, the police report says. He sent $2,000 to his mother in Iran, paid $2,000 for a car, $550 for rent and $500 for a car stereo, the report says.

The police report does not account for the rest of the money.

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