B-140725, SEPTEMBER 29, 1959, 39 COMP. GEN. 246

B-140725: Sep 29, 1959

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

THE FEDERAL AGENCY IS REQUIRED TO RETURN THE ADDITIONAL AMOUNT TO THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. THE CIRCUMSTANCES GIVING RISE TO THIS QUESTION ARE STATED IN THE LETTER AS FOLLOWS: DURING 1956 MRS. PURCHASED FIVE MONEY ORDERS WHICH WERE MADE PAYABLE TO THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION AT CHICAGO IN REPAYMENT OF A LOAN. THESE ORDERS WERE PURCHASED IN SMALL AMOUNTS AND RAISED BY MRS. UPON DISCOVERY OF THE ALTERATIONS THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT MADE DEMAND UPON THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION FOR THE $49 DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TOTAL ISSUE AMOUNT OF THE ORDERS AND THE RAISED AMOUNT. * * * IT IS CLEAR FROM THE FOREGOING THAT THE ADDITIONAL MONEY WAS PAID TO YOUR ADMINISTRATION UNDER A MISTAKE OF FACT.

B-140725, SEPTEMBER 29, 1959, 39 COMP. GEN. 246

FEDERAL AGENCY RECEIVING MONEY UNDER MISTAKE OF FACT - ALTERED POSTAL MONEY ORDERS A FEDERAL AGENCY RECEIVING ADDITIONAL MONEY FROM THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT AS THE RESULT OF CASHING SEVERAL POSTAL MONEY ORDERS FOR AMOUNTS WHICH HAD BEEN RAISED BY THE PURCHASER BEFORE TRANSMITTAL TO THE FEDERAL AGENCY HAS RECEIVED THE MONEY UNDER A MISTAKE OF FACT AND, LIKE A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING SOMETHING FOR NOTHING, WHEN RESTITUTION DOES NOT RESULT IN ANY LOSS TO THE RECIPIENT, THE FEDERAL AGENCY IS REQUIRED TO RETURN THE ADDITIONAL AMOUNT TO THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT.

TO THE COMMISSIONER, PUBLIC HOUSING ADMINISTRATION, SEPTEMBER 29, 1959:

BY LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 9, 1959, THE ACTING POSTMASTER GENERAL ASKED WHETHER, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES DESCRIBED THEREIN, THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO PAY OVER TO THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT THE SUM OF $49.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES GIVING RISE TO THIS QUESTION ARE STATED IN THE LETTER AS FOLLOWS:

DURING 1956 MRS. OWEN ( THELMA) KRUEGER OF 10520 RACINE AVENUE, CHICAGO 43, ILLINOIS, PURCHASED FIVE MONEY ORDERS WHICH WERE MADE PAYABLE TO THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION AT CHICAGO IN REPAYMENT OF A LOAN. THESE ORDERS WERE PURCHASED IN SMALL AMOUNTS AND RAISED BY MRS. KRUEGER BEFORE SHE TRANSMITTED THEM TO THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION.

UPON DISCOVERY OF THE ALTERATIONS THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT MADE DEMAND UPON THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION FOR THE $49 DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TOTAL ISSUE AMOUNT OF THE ORDERS AND THE RAISED AMOUNT. * * *

IT IS CLEAR FROM THE FOREGOING THAT THE ADDITIONAL MONEY WAS PAID TO YOUR ADMINISTRATION UNDER A MISTAKE OF FACT. IN COMMENTING ON THE RIGHT OF THE POST OFFICE TO RECOVER MONEY PAID ON STOLEN MONEY ORDER BLANKS THE COURT IN THE CASE OF UNITED STATES V. NORTHWESTERN NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST CO., 35 F.1SUPP. 484, STATED THAT EQUITY RECOGNIZES THE RIGHT TO RECOVER MONEY PAID THROUGH MISTAKE SO THAT A RECIPIENT OF A BENEFIT SO BESTOWED MUST MAKE RESTORATION, THE THEORY BEING THAT THE RECIPIENT HAS MERELY RECEIVED SOMETHING FOR NOTHING AND THAT RESTITUTION RESULTS IN NO LOSS TO HIM.

IN VIEW OF THE HOLDING IN THAT CASE THAT THE UNITED STATES WAS ENTITLED TO RECOVER THE AMOUNT SO PAID, THERE CAN BE NO QUESTION THAT IF THE RECIPIENT OF THE ADDITIONAL MONEY HERE INVOLVED HAD BEEN A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT LEGALLY WOULD BE ENTITLED TO RECOVER. SEE ALSO BOLOGNESI V. UNITED STATES, 189 FED. 335, AND TED LEWIN V. UNITED STATES, 170 F. SUPP. 646. WE SEE NO VALID REASON WHY THE FACT THAT THE PRESENT CASE INVOLVES TWO FEDERAL AGENCIES SHOULD HAVE ANY EFFECT ON THE RIGHT OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT TO HAVE MONEY RETURNED TO IT NOR ARE WE AWARE OF ANY REASON WHY YOUR ADMINISTRATION MAY NOT LEGALLY MAKE SUCH REFUND. IN THIS CONNECTION ATTENTION IS INVITED TO A-93753, JUNE 24, 1938, COPY ENCLOSED, WHEREIN THERE WAS AUTHORIZED AN ADJUSTMENT IN THE REVENUE ACCOUNTS OF AN INTERNAL REVENUE COLLECTOR AND THE MONEY ORDER ACCOUNT OF THE POSTMASTER GENERAL.

ACCORDINGLY, IT IS OUR VIEW THAT YOUR ADMINISTRATION PROPERLY SHOULD COMPLY WITH THE DEMAND OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT.