Cashiers stole with debit card

A supermarket cashier has been sentenced to nine months house arrest after pleading guilty to theft by use of another person’s debit card.

A second cashier, who pleaded not guilty and chose Grand Court trial, will be sentenced in December. A jury found her guilty of one count of theft and one forgery. Not guilty verdicts were returned on four other charges.

Claudia Parchment, 25, and Yamalis Ebanks, 21, were employed as cashiers at Foster’s Food Fair in West Bay. The incidents that led to the charges occurred on 18 June 2004.

Parchment gave evidence for the Prosecution during Ebanks’ trial. She told the court Ebanks came to her and said she had found the card outside. Ebanks denied this, saying the transactions she did were with the belief that the card belonged to Parchment.

In his instructions to jurors, Mr. Justice Alex Henderson told them of Parchment’s guilty pleas so that they would not wonder why she was not on trial also.

He emphasised that Parchment’s plea could have no bearing on their decisions regarding Ebanks, as the Crown still had to prove its case against her. He cautioned jurors to consider the possibility that Parchment had implicated Ebanks or exaggerated her involvement in order to win a lighter sentence for herself. It was for the jury to decide.

Jurors deliberated for almost five hours and asked to see again video tape from the store’s monitoring system.

Their verdicts, the judge said later, indicated that they had found beyond reasonable doubt that Ebanks was lying in respect of two charges. With respect to the other charges, they entertained a reasonable doubt about who was telling the truth and who was lying.

Ebanks was found guilty of the theft of $200 and forging a signature on the receipt. She had told the court that Parchment asked her to take $200 out on the card because Parchment needed to send money to her kids in Honduras.

Ebanks said she believed the card was Parchment’s own and she was therefore not acting dishonestly. She knew it was against store rules, but she did it as a personal favour. Ebanks further told the court that she signed a name to the receipt. It was a name she made up, not her own or Parchment’s.

The judge had suggested that jurors consider why, if Ebanks was acting honestly, would she sign a made-up name. But they could not convict her unless they were sure she was acting dishonestly when she removed the money from her register and signed the receipt.

The charges on which Ebanks was found not guilty pertained to theft of $179 in one transaction and $150 in another. The second transaction also involved items valued at $6.32, leading to another charge of obtaining property by deception. The Crown’s case, presented by Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban, was that Ebanks and Parchment committed these offences together.

Ebanks’ sentencing was adjourned until 9 December at the request of Attorney Nicholas Dixey so that a social inquiry report could be prepared.

In sentencing Parchment, Mr. Justice Henderson pointed out that a cashier holds a position of trust, handling significant sums of money and processing debit and credit card payments.

Internal theft and breaches of trust will ordinarily require terms of imprisonment, he said. The reason is to deter others and enforce honesty in the marketplace.

In this case, Parchment admitted her participation in acts of theft. She pleaded guilty to the theft of $179 and said she received $75 of it. She pleaded guilty to the theft of $150, but said she did not receive benefit from that, only the articles worth $6.32 in the transaction for $156.32. So what she received was minimal — $75 cash and $6 worth of goods. As a result, of course, she lost her job.

The judge took into account her guilty pleas, her testimony in court and apparent full co-operation.

He said he had not lost sight of the fact that the jury was not convinced to the required standard: that did not destroy her entitlement to a discount in her sentence.

According to mitigation put forward by Attorney Morris Garcia, Parchment is a Honduran national, mother of three and full-time homemaker. The question of deportation after conviction for indictable offences was for immigration authorities.

The judge described Parchment’s matter as one of those relatively infrequent cases where a non-custodial sentence was justified.

He then placed her on probation for nine months, with conditions.

She is to be of good behaviour and appear before the court when required; not consume alcohol or drugs, not be found in possession of any weapon.

She is to remain within her place of residence at all times with a few exceptions. She may be absent for four hours on Sunday to attend church; three hours once per month for medical and dental appointments; specified hours once per week for the purpose of shopping.

If a hurricane warning is declared and people are advised to go to shelters, she may be absent from her residence for that.

Otherwise, remaining within her residence means just that; she may not be out in the yard.