BENNINGTON -- Police said a Pleasant Street man drained another's bank account after being given his debit card and PIN to settle a debt over a broken cell phone.
Christopher J. Hope Jr., 32, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to four felony counts of identity theft, four misdemeanor counts of false pretenses, and one count of false information to police. He was released under the conditions he check in daily at the Bennington Police Station and not contact the alleged victim, Richard Danforth.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Lawrence Cole, on Jan. 13 Danforth told police he had stepped on Hope's cell phone accidentally and gave him his debit card and its PIN telling him to take $20 to pay for the phone, then return the card. The car was not returned and the account was drained of about $300.
Hope told police Danforth did not step on his phone and simply told him to withdraw all the money from the account, take $20 for himself, and bring Danforth the money along with the card. Hope said he took the $20 first, bought marijuana with it, then came back and did as Danforth asked.
Cole wrote that bank records show the account was drawn down over the course of two ATM sessions, but at no point was a sum of $20 removed as Hope said. Video records from the bank show Hope making the withdrawals, and that Danforth also got a replacement card issued to him later that day.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at