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Lotto sales theft case begins at Kingstown court

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Two hundred and twenty-eight of the 251 charges of theft against Troumaca resident Shanique Hooper were withdrawn by the prosecution at the commencement of her trial on Tuesday, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.{{more}}

Between September 2, 2010 and July 13, 2011, Hooper is alleged to have stolen money on various occasions from a lotto machine at her former work place, Lady J Giftorium and Snackette.

Proprietor of Lady J, Jennifer Williams, told the court that her business operates a lotto machine from the National Lotteries Authority (NLA).

Williams said Hooper worked as a clerk and was solely in charge of operating the lotto machine daily from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., at which time another employee would take over.

Williams explained to the court that originally, the store opened from 8 a.m. daily, but because of the large number of persons waiting to purchase lotto tickets on mornings, she decided to open an hour earlier to accommodate those persons.

She said since Hooper was coming all the way from Troumaca and had to catch the first available omnibus to Kingstown, she had asked Hooper to operate the lotto machine from 7 to 8 a.m. daily.

She also noted that three clerks would operate the machine at various times, but Hooper was the only person who would operate from 7 to 8 a.m.

Williams told magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias that the clerks all had a common password for the machine, which she said is linked to the National Lotteries Authority.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, Williams said she and Hooper arrived at work at the same time. She testified that Hooper went straight to the lotto machine and began selling lotto tickets, while she went to her office to put down her bags.

She added that when she obtained the weekly statement from the National Lotteries Authority, she saw a figure of $31,248.50, which represented one week’s sale of lotto tickets, beginning from July 6 up to July 12, 2011.

Williams said she knew she did not have even half of that money to pay what she owed the NLA.

After assessing the figures, Williams said she noticed she was paying the NLA more money than she was collecting daily.

She, however, indicated that she had noticed a shortfall in the money for a few months before, but had not followed up on it.

“I pondered and wondered what could be wrong… I sat with the lottery report in front of me and tried to figure it out…,” Williams testified.

WIlliams explained that whenever the lotto machine is cleared on evenings, she collects four reports, which include the clerk’s report for the entire day’s taking, the settlement report for the NLA and two other reports.

She said the reports are handed over to her along with the cash. Williams also said she saw the records each day from the lotto machine, but never knew the machine was manipulated.

Williams said she immediately contacted the NLA on the matter and asked, “What time was the lotto machine opened the day before?”

What Williams discovered, she said, “sent off alarm bells”.

“I called my husband and told him somebody has been doing something wrong….”

She indicated that she pulled back records from a few months prior to the revelation and realised that the machine was being opened at different times after the usual 7 a.m.

Williams then set up a meeting with head of the NLA MacGregor Sealey, during which she pointed out the discrepancies.

An investigation was launched into the matter by the NLA, who discovered that starting 2010, the machine had been opened at a particular time, cleared of all records and started afresh as if it was the first time for the day the machine was operating.

Those figures revealed various times between 7 and 8 a.m., when the machine would commence, stop operation and start again.

Records indicated that on September 2, 2010, $274 was collected from lotto sales between 7 and 8 a.m., which Williams said she had never collected.

On September 3, $303 was collected; October 15 – $362; October 22 – $388; November 2 – $294; November 5 – $261; December 1 – $230; December 3 – $324; January 21, 2011 – $336; January 28 – $392; February 18 – $359; February 28 – $402; March 7 – $453; March 12 – $234; April 18 – $529; April 29 – $551; May 25 – $732; May 27 – $705; June 8 – $780; June 24 – $782; July 7 – $824; July 8 – $872; and July 13 – $469.

Williams said she also never collected any of those monies.

Williams, interestingly, disclosed that when Hooper proceeded on vacation leave from December 6 to 27, no money went missing.

Williams said the investigation also revealed that everything was cleared on mornings, but nothing was cleared on afternoons.

A meeting was then held with Sealey, Williams, an accountant and Hooper in the lounge at Lady J, so that they could get to the bottom of the matter.

“I spoke about my observations and asked her to explain what happened. She professed ignorance about it and said she knew nothing at all..,” Williams indicated.

She said she asked Hooper who was responsible for clearing the machine between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily, and Hooper said it was she.

“I asked her if any other clerk cleared the machine and she said no… We told her she had to be the culpable party and she maintained that she did not do it…,” Williams revealed.

Williams then made a decision to call in the police on the matter. At that time, Williams said Hooper asked not to have the police involved and that she would repay the money.

“Our question to her was ‘How are you going to pay back what you didn’t take’ and she said she didn’t want the police involved…”

Williams said Hooper then asked to contact a woman by the name of “Teacher Nola”, whom she (Hooper) indicated would pay the money.

When she arrived, Williams said Teacher Nola asked Hooper if she had tampered with the machine and Hooper replied, “I dain so”.

“I asked Teacher Nola what she (Hooper) meant and she said she (Hooper) meant yes… I turned to Shanique and asked the same question and she nodded in the affirmative…” Williams added.

Attorney for Hooper Carlos James interjected at that point, objecting to what Williams said Teacher Nola had interpreted when Hooper said “I dain so”.

James said that her interpretation bordered on the grounds of “hearsay evidence”.

However, crown counsel Kareem Nelson said that Hooper was in the presence of Teacher Nola and Williams when the words were said.

“This is not hearsay, Your Worship. The defendant was always present,” Nelson argued.

The matter will re-commence on Monday, April 22 for cross-examination from James.

Ayanna Baptiste-DaBreo also appears with Nelson in the matter.

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