A truck pulled up at Nick Memmo’s East Freetown house last month bringing an unexpected delivery — and a dilemma.
The delivery was a $2,700, 86-inch flat screen TV that Memmo hadn’t ordered. The dilemma? Whether to keep it or send it back.
But who are we kidding?
“It was like winning a scratchers ticket,” said Memmo, a muscly 35-year-old Massachusetts native who runs a construction management company. “I thought it was my turn to luck out on something in life.”
It soon became more complicated than that. In fairly short order, police would surround his house, take him to jail, and slap him with a felony larceny charge. The case has burned up the Internet ever since, a moral Rorschach test of where blame belongs. Even the law seems murky. But Memmo himself is quite certain: He didn’t steal anything.
“It’s not like I ran out of Walmart,” he said. “I didn’t set out looking for this.”
The saga began, Memmo said, when he used Amazon’s click-and-pay feature to purchase a different TV — a 75-inch flat screen valued at around $1,200.
But due to a paperwork error, when a driver from a third-party delivery service called Cape Cod Express arrived at his home on March 1, he came bearing two televisions: The one Memmo had actually ordered, and the 86-inch one he hadn’t.
Memmo claims he doesn’t remember whether he was present when the delivery was made, or whether he was the one who signed for it. Deliveries are constantly arriving at his home, he said — and even if he did sign for the packages, he said, it’s unlikely he examined them at the time.
“Even if he dropped 10 TVs at my door, I wouldn’t have noticed,” he said.
Police dispute his account, saying the driver identified Memmo in a photo lineup as the man who signed for the delivery.
One way or another, Memmo said that once he did realize the mistake, he poked around onlineto see if he could legally keep the TV.
On the Federal Trade Commission’s website, he found a question-and-answer page that seemed to provide the answer he was looking for, he said.
“If you receive merchandise that you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it as a free gift,” the site says.
Though Memmo did read the line correctly, it was advice intended for consumers who are victims of companies that send unsolicited merchandise and then demand payment, a common scam. The page also advises consumers to “always start by trying to resolve your dispute with the company.”
Still, Memmo walked away feeling confident.
“I hung the TV with no fear in mind,” he said, “because I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong.”
Nor, Memmo said, did he feel any obligation to respond when the delivery company, realizing the mistake, began calling about the TV — which was supposed to have been delivered to an address in East Taunton.
In the ensuing days, a manager from the delivery company reported the issue to local police, saying the company made repeated attempts to contact Memmo, according to a police report. Many times, the manager said, the calls went unanswered, though occasionally a male would pick up, identify himself as “Nicholas Sr.,” and promise to pass the message on to his son. Memmo denies this could have happened, saying that his father passed away years ago and that he never pretended to be him on the phone.“I don’t know where that came from,” he said.
Two Freetown police officers went to Memmo’s home and met him in the driveway as he was arriving home from the gym, according to the police report.
When questioned about the television, the report says, Memmo told the officers he wasn’t home when the package was delivered. He asked to see the signature on the delivery paperwork, then insisted it wasn’t his. His employees regularly spend time at his home, he said, and he suggested it was possible one of them had signed for it.
While speaking with Memmo, the report notes, officers observed a “very large” television through a front window of his home.
In a subsequent request for a warrant, Freetown police Sergeant Edward Dwyer didn’t mince words.
“Memmo clearly lies, refuses to answer his telephone and will likely lie about receiving a summons and will not show up to court,” he wrote.
Days later, Memmo was on the couch with his son, he said, when police surrounded his home.
“They came banging on the doors with flashlights, and had somebody at the front of the house, back of the house, side of the house,” he said.
Police placed Memmo in handcuffs, charging him with larceny over $1,200 by false pretense and a second charge of misleading a police officer. They removed the TV from the living room wall, then took him to jail.
Citing the ongoing case, a spokesman for the Bristol County district attorney’s office declined to comment, referring questions to Freetown police.
Even as the case has pinged across the Internet, spawning a number of opinions, legal analysts haven’t been entirely sure what to make of it.
“Under the Massachusetts general laws for larceny, there needs to be a taking of property,” said Veronica White, a Boston criminal defense lawyer who said she’s never encountered a case like this in her two decades in law. “And it doesn’t seem as though what has happened here is in line with that.”
Others aren’t so sure.
“I just don’t see the defense,” said Steven Boozang, a Dedham lawyer who once defended former New England mob boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme. He said the big-ticket nature of the item probably obligated Memmo to report the error to the company. “They . . . made a mistake, and he profited from that.”
At the moment, Memmo, who said he was released from jail after a few hours, is looking for a lawyer to handle his case. If found guilty, Memmo faces the prospect of up to 15 years in prison for the two charges, as well as thousands of dollars in fines and the various legal fees he expects to accrue as he goes about mounting his defense.
“Luckily, I have the money to take care of the situation,” he said. “But that’s my hard-earned money that I have to pay to defend myself for something that was delivered to my doorstep.”
As for whether his time with the massive television was worth the troubles it eventually wrought?
“I don’t even watch TV,” Memmo said. “That’s the worst part of it.”
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.