Man lost job, sold numbers

Original offence was theft at school

Two charges of theft followed by
two charges of selling lottery tickets added up to 180 hours of community
service and $700 in fines for Gregory Jefferson Johnson in Summary Court last
week.

Defence Attorney John Furniss
emphasised that Johnson, now 25, had no previous convictions.
“Hopefully he will learn from this,” Mr. Furniss said, while acknowledging that
prison was a real possibility as sentence.

Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson
provided details of the offences.

In May, 2008, the bookkeeper for
the George Hicks Home and School Association Canteen noticed two cheques were
missing from the chequebook. The cheques required two signatures and were
pre-signed by one of the authorised signatories.

The bookkeeper went to the bank to
ask about the missing cheques and found that both had been issued to Gregory
Johnson, who was the handyman at the canteen. The cheques were for $1,200 and
$1,500.

Johnson was interviewed and
admitted taking the cheques because he needed money to pay bills.

In December 2008, police were
carrying out operations on Eastern
Avenue. They went to a bar and saw Johnson playing
pool. On the next table they found a receipt book. Officers searched Johnson
and found $650 and two pens.

He initially denied selling lottery
tickets, but officers searching his apartment found a dream book. Mr. Ferguson
explained that the book associates certain numbers with the subjects of dreams
and people using the book will play those numbers.

Johnson subsequently admitted
selling numbers. He said there had been problems with his job as a result of
the theft charges and he was unemployed.

In November 2009 the police “hot
spot” team conducted operations at a sports bar. Johnson was inside and, on
seeing the officers, he walked away from a bench. The officer in charge
observed certain items on the bench and called Johnson back. He admitted they
belonged to him; the items were used in the sale of numbers.

Magistrate Grace Donalds asked why
the original theft charges had been adjourned.

Mr. Furniss said it was so that
Johnson could pay the money back in full.

The $2,700 had to be paid to the
bank, which took the loss because it had cashed the cheques with just one
signatory instead of the two required by the account.

It had taken Johnson a long time to
pay the money back because he was getting only part-time employment after
losing his job, Mr. Furniss told the court. The probation officer interviewing
Johnson had proposed community service “although they accept he is at risk,” he
concluded.

The magistrate ordered Johnson to
perform 90 hours of community service for each of the theft charges, for a
total of 180 hours.

Noting that the maximum sentence
for selling lottery tickets is $400 (depending on the section
of the Gambling Law under which the charge is brought), she fined Johnson $200
for the first offence and $400 for the second.

For the offence of failing to
surrender to court on one occasion, she fined him a further $100, for a total
of $700.

“Please do not go back to selling
lottery tickets to pay the fine,” she told Johnson.

She added she did not think he
would, since the arresting officer knew Johnson well and would be watching him.

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