Bank's 1-digit mistake sent Madden 3 unwanted checks

$11,500 error has senator wondering about process

August 12, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Martin G. Madden's mystery money moved from a German businessman's Texas account to his Maryland campaign fund because of a single digit wrongly entered by a bank employee, a NationsBank spokeswoman said yesterday.

The Howard and Prince George's legislator had been puzzled all summer about his campaign receiving three large checks from a man in Texas he had never heard of -- in a nonelection year. He tried to return the checks and was doubly confused when they came back to him.

"We goofed," said Betsy Hall, NationsBank's spokeswoman in Texas.

It's the kind of simple human error that occurs once in a while, she said. The result, however, sent three easily cashable bank checks worth $11,500 into the unknown.

In the end, no one lost money. Theodor Brendle-Neher didn't lose a nickel, and Madden, the Maryland Senate's Republican minority leader, got no free money. But it makes him wonder, Madden said yesterday.

"You get these assurances that everything's fine, but I've got to really wonder," he said.

Hall explained how the mistake occurred.

Brendle-Neher wanted to make a monthly payment to a company through his office computer. The bank created an electronic pathway to enable Susanne Schiess, his employee, to do that.

But a bank employee missed the receiving account number by one digit. The computer cut a check for the requested amount but, unable to find a computer with that number to transfer the funds to, scanned internal bank lists for a recipient.

Although Madden has never banked with NationsBank, someone had contributed to his campaign through the bank, perhaps the bank's political action committee in Maryland, he said. The computer found that transaction number and automatically mailed the checks, one in May and two in June.

"Normally, we catch it," Hall said of the mistake. "We apologized profusely to our customer."

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