A New York judge today turned down an appeal by a Brooklyn woman for access to $468,000 in United Nations funds that were accidentally deposited in her checking account over the past two years.
Chase Manhattan Bank began freezing the money in September after the U.N. discovered that a total of $702,000 wired by 13 foreign governments to the U.N. Environment Program wound up in the account of Susan Madakor, 40, because of a one-digit error in the account number.
Madakor has spent more than $230,000 of the money to pay off $30,000 in credit card debts, purchase a Laundromat, open a college fund for her 10-year-old son and start a retirement plan for herself. Her lawyer, Michael Siegel, said she will sue to keep the money on grounds that the bank had only 90 days to rectify any erroneous government wire transfers.
Siegel added that Madakor thought she had won a lottery and quit her $23,000-a-year job as a receptionist. The mix-up "led a woman down a path altering her life," he said. "She can't undo it."
New York State Supreme Court Justice Barry Cozier ruled that Madakor had not proven any right to the funds.
Chase Manhattan and the United Nations, meanwhile, won't say who is responsible for the error. But they indicated they might sue Madakor. "The money doesn't belong to her, it belongs to UNEP," said Ken Herz, a spokesman for Chase Manhattan. "I think that everyone is reviewing their legal options."