My brother stole from my mom. What are the legal ramifications?

My idiot brother stole my mom’s credit card. He ran off seven or eight thousand bucks on it. Mom reported the card stolen. She is awaiting the list of charges made to it to report which ones were fraudulent. She hasn’t yet reported idiot brother to the authorities.

Now the questions.

How much jail time might the idiot get for this crime. A side note: Idiot brother has a bunch of DUI offenses and he has about a year of suspended sentence from that. Could a conviction on an unrelated charge like this trigger that jail time?

If my mom can’t bear to see her idiot son land in the jug and she doesn’t report that he’s the one who stole the card would she be legally complicit in the crime? My guess would be yes, but I don’t know for sure.

Your mom doesn’t have to press charges - something similar happened with my no-good brother and my dad, and he didn’t press charges. The brother ended up being responsible for negotiating payments, etc., but no criminal consequences or anything. Of course, this was probably not in your state.

The merchants can choose to prosecute, even over the card-holder’s objections. I know of one case where that happened.

If your mom reported on him, he would likely have to serve the suspended sentence, as well as getting about six months to a year in the pokey. (It may vary according to your jurisdiction.)

And, yes, I think your mother would be complicit if she knew the culprit and didn’t tell the investigators. It’s likely they’d find out anyway if they looked into it-- it just depends on how much effort the credit card company want to put into it. Likely, she wouldn’t be charged, but it’s posisble (legally speaking) that she could.

Personally, I feel that your mother should let her son take his lumps. If she lets him get away with this, who knows what else he could do? I mean, he’s already stolen from his mother, something that most people would think is pretty damn low.

IANAL and I can not authoritatively answer the legal questions in the OP. Your idiot brother may want to visit a lawyer.

How much jail time if convicted? That is a question that can be answered only by your state’s laws and a judge. The laws may specify minimum and maximum penalties, but in the end it’s up to the judge.

Is your mom complicit if she doesn’t report him? I don’t know. I do know that if your mom backs out and says he had permission to use the card, then she will be liable for the charges. Not familiar with the situation as Zsofia describes it. If she just allows it to go as an unsolved crime and does not tell the authorities that your brother made the purchases, I see two problems, but a lawyer would need to comment for this information to be of value. First, she would be withholding information or giving false informationt to the police, which is probably some sort of crime. Just as bad, there are all these purchases that your brother still has, and she’s just letting it ride while the credit card association/bank/merchants have to cover the theft. That’s fraud. I suppose she could be an accessory after the fact, or part of conspiracy to defraud.

This may indeed be the case, though it depends on how the brother made the purchases. In person? Phone? Web? Normally, a merchant is required to check only the signature on the charge slip against that on the back of the card, and then can lose nothing if the transaction was fraudulent. The contract with the associations generally says that. If, however, the card has your mother’s name, and your brother either signed his own name or a poor forgery of your mother’s, the bank may not reimburse the merchant. In that case, the merchant could probably bring a civil suit to recover their loss, and might also be able to bring criminal charges (more difficult to prove). For card-not-present purchases, if the merchant collects the CID (called various things by the different associations; the three-digit code on the signature panel of a Visa or MasterCard, for example) proving that the buyer had the card in hand, then the merchant is generally protected against a fraudulent transaction.

My point here is that I agree that your brother could have a legal exposure regardless of what your mother decides to do, if the merchants don’t get paid.

Since the Captain has chosen to involve himself he may wish to seek the services of a lawyer on behalf of his mother or brother, depending on his allegiances. This question is so specific to your situation that even the lawyers on the board will probably be reluctant to guess what’s going to happen. Personally, if I were you, I’d get out of the way.

Just my cereal-box lawyer take, but I think any Big Trouble a person gets on while on a suspended sentence can land them in jail.

If she doesn’t report the crime and pays the credit card bills, there is no problem. She, in essence, has loaned the card to her son. If she reported it stolen and the credit card company has to eat it, I’d think she’s committing a crime.

As soon as a charge is questioned by your mother, the creditor has grounds to pursue legal action to find the the fruadulent party and get their money back. Your mother would get charged with fraud if she disputed the charges and didn’t disclose that she knew the person. He doesn’t sound like he’ll stop his criminal actions, if your mother says nothing and pays off the debt. He’s already demonstrated he’s iresponsible, by getting repeated DUI’s while endangering all the lives of the people he meets on the road or walking down the sidewalk. Now he’s steals using your mother’s credit card, and leaves her with the decission, to report it and make him responsible for his crime, or hide it and likely never recover the lost money, to be disapointed when he does a bigger fraud in another month. You and your mom shouldn’t feel guilty in letting him pay for his crime. I know you will, but it’s not anybody’s fault, but his.

Agreed. In situations like this, there is an enormous temptation to think something like, “But I don’t want to be the one who puts him in jail!” Just keep reminding yourself (or tell your mom to remind herself), you aren’t putting him in jail; he put himself in jail and you’re just getting out of the way.

Based on my observations reading the paper, yes, if the suspended sentence is still “active” and hanging over him, it could get reactivated.
Bear in mind, if they charge him separately for EACH time he used the card, that suspended sentence may or may not even matter.
If he used it ten times, and it’s, let’s say… a two year sentence each time, he could be looking at twenty years.
I googled “sentence credit card fraud” and my first hit was thus:

So, in federal court, identity theft carries 10 yrs/$250K as a maximum sentence in some cases. I’m not saying he’d wind up charged on this, but his DUIs will likely be petty crimes compared to what he’s looking down the barrel of.
My advice:
If a relative crosses you on purpose, contact the police and tell the whole story.
If someone defrauds you our your creditors, immediately inform your creditors of everything you know. Send certified mail disputing any fraudulent creditors.
You should probably stop talking about this on the internet right now, as anything you say here may become admissible, and conflicting statements might make you look bad, or perjurous.
Your brother should get a lawyer, and a good one, and yesterday. I feel for him, despite him breaking SDMB rule 1.
Your mother should at least consult with an attorney regarding her civil liability in these circumstances. She should seriously consider retaining an attorney if her consultation leads her in that direction.

This sucks. I am sorry to hear that you or any member of your family is involved. I particularly feel for your mother, as this really, really sucks for her.

Oh yeah. Unrelated charges CAN trigger suspended sentences, in case you hadn’t been informed of that already in the thread.
Can we safely assume your brother is an adult? Not many 17-year-olds with DUIs, though it happens.
If your brother is a minor, the whole story changes, ESPECIALLY with regards to civil liability.

IANAL and the opinion I’m about to give certainly doesn’t represent any morally superior attitude. I’m thinking of the crap I went through w/ my son and the crap I put my parents through when I was 15-16 years old.
First, I’m uncertain where your mother stands in this. Did she know, or suspect that your brother was responsible for the credit card charges before she reported the card stolen? 'Cause if that’s the case, and she didn’t follow up by reporting the theft to the police, then I think she’s trying to cover herself financially without facing the reality that her son needs to face responsibility and, if that’s the situation, then I think your mother is just as immoral as your brother, because she would be trying to shirk responsibility just like your brother is doing.
On the other hand, in the event that she, innocently, reported the card stolen to the credit card company and later discovered that her son was responsible for the theft, then here are the choices, as I see them:
She can follow through and call the police, which I have to wonder why she didn’t do in the first place if she really didn’t know who had the card.
She can call the credit card company and withdraw the theft complaint, in which case she must accept responsibility for all charges on the account, but she will protect your brother from facing responsibility yet again.
She can keep quiet, not notify the police, and hope that the credit card company never finds out the truth, and I must, reluctantly, tell you that I think the odds are very good that she will probably get away with this deception.
Choice one takes courage and strength.
Choice two is compassionate, but foolish and only ensures the your brother will continue his selfish, immature behavior.
Choice three is criminal and risky, but she’ll probably get away w/ it.
I’d suggest you present you mother with the realities and then step back and let the chips fall where they may, it’s time that, both your mother and your brother learned some hard lessons.

Mr. Slant is quite correct, in this state at least. Some twenty years ago I found myself on probation for a disorderly conduct charge (Not one of the proudest moments in my life). I had a one year suspended sentence. It was made quite clear that my continued freedom was at the pleasure of my probation officer. At a meeting with my PO she asked what I had done over the weekend, and I said I visited my mother (the truth, mom paid my bail and I was working it off on weekends doing handyman stuff around her place). Mom lived in Illinois, I was in Wisconsin. It was made clear to me that I would be sweeping county floors for a year if I ever did that again. The issue was not that I left the state, it was that I did not get permission first. I still visited mom after that, and it was a rubber stamp approval from my PO, but I had to ask. I would think that committing a crime would be treated much more harshly.Here twenty years later I still am doing handyman stuff around her place, I just don’t need permission to do it. Mom is tougher than the PO ever was…

I had a friend that had to deal with a son that just got worse the more she gave to help him out. He just got worse in what he did, so you know where I’m coming from. He truelywanted to be your friend until 15 minutes later you were robbed.

IANAL, but I would bet against this option. The credit card company has $7000 of motivation and lots of experience. I expect a good bit of their experience tells them a lot of credit card fraud takes place within the family. The merchants also have a financial incentive to identify the fraudulent purchaser. If the brother made any purchases in person at places with security cameras, or over the phone or internet with items shipped to his address, it seems like a pretty simple matter to track him down.

Friends of mine had their credit card stolen by a total stranger. He happened to use it to purchase large amounts of women’s clothing, and was identified by security cameras at the stores.

This happened to my grandmother. Since she wouldn’t turn in my cousin, the credit card company told her she was responsible for paying the bill.