Assistant manager not guilty of theft

A former assistant manager at Foster’s Supermarket was found not guilty of theft from the store after trial in Summary Court.

John Jacinto, 35, had pleaded not guilty to two counts alleging the theft of $8,000 in cash or phone cards in August-September 2006. After trial, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale delivered her verdict on 20 December.

The magistrate congratulated both Crown Counsel Jenesha Bhoorasingh and Defence Attorney James Stenning on their outstanding preparation of the case.

She said the Crown’s case had been exceptionally well presented. She commended Mr. Stenning for his meticulous cross-examination of witnesses.

In summarising the evidence, she noted that at the time the offences were allegedly committed, part of Jacinto’s job was to receive and distribute phone cards to cashiers for sale. He was the person who accounted for the phone cards on a monthly or quarterly basis.

The Crown’s case was that, in one inventory he submitted to the store’s accounting department, there was a discrepancy between a deposit of $3,000 which he said he made to the bank for phone card sales and records at the bank.

When Jacinto could not produce evidence he had made the deposit, he was fired. Afterwards, an inventory of all the cards and money in his possession showed that another $5,000 was missing.

Jacinto said he had given his supply of phone cards to another assistant manager, who in turn denied receiving them.

A search of all of the store’s bank deposit books did not produce a copy of the $3,000 deposit Jacinto said he had made and the Crown’s case was that he had taken the money.

After hearing how cash was left in a room to which all the managers and supervisors had access, the magistrate said the evidence showed that many persons would have had the means and opportunity to take the cash. There was nothing to prevent a third party from purloining the cash and destroying the deposit slip.

The procedure by which cash was brought in and checked has since been changed, she noted.

When money was collected from the store on the night of 9 August 2006, Jacinto signed a logbook; it did not note a deposit of $3,000. Jacinto told the court he prepared his deposit at 2pm; he did not check the logbook for what couriers took to the bank at 5pm, so would have no reason to be alarmed when his deposit was not part of the later pick-up.

The magistrate said circumstantial evidence must point in one direction only, and in this case it did not. While it was highly suspicious that no copy of the deposit slip could be found, the facts shown did not rise to the standard of proof required.

Regarding the second theft allegation, the magistrate said both Jacinto and the other assistant store manager gave evidence on oath; both appeared to be honest and forthright.

The other assistant had told the court she never received any cards from Jacinto, never had a $5,000 float and never needed one because she had access to the cabinet where Jacinto had kept the phone cards.

The matter became one of ‘he said, she said,’ the magistrate commented.

She said it was bad practice for anyone else to have access to cards for which Jacinto alone was responsible and accountable.

Again, there was a high degree of suspicion, but it did not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. She therefore returned not guilty verdicts on both charges.