Witnesses cross-examined by defence counsel as lotto money case continues
Proprietor of Lady J Giftorium and Snackette Jennifer Williams admitted in court yesterday that her niece also had access to the lotto machine, from which former sales clerk, Shanique Hooper, is alleged to have stolen money on various occasions.
This revelation was made while Williams was being cross-examined by counsel for Hooper, Carlos James, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
It is alleged that money from the lotto machine at Williams’ business place was stolen between September 2, 2010 and July 13, 2011.
Williams explained that three employees of her business operated the lotto machine at different intervals. All of them had universal access to the password for the machine.
Hooper, however, was the sole operator of the machine from 7 to 8 a.m.
Williams replied in the affirmative when asked by James if her niece used to come to the store and if she had access to the machine.
The proprietor explained that her niece was between nine and 10 years old at the time. Williams said the girl would come to the store with her on mornings and leave at about 7:15 a.m. to go to the Postal Corporation building opposite Lady J to meet a relative.
However, Williams asserted that even though her niece used to be at the store, the child never sold tickets and did not know how to clear the machine.
“I showed her how to turn on the machine and open the cash register, but she never sold any tickets…,” Williams explained.
She added that sales of lotto tickets began when Hooper arrived at work around 7 a.m.
“What would happen to the days when she was late?” James questioned.
The Villa resident, who has been in business for the past 22 years, explained that Hooper was “seldom” late and if she was late, it would be by about five minutes.
“…Between 7 and 8 a.m. is the busiest time for the lotto machine. And if Shanique was late, we will advise our customers that the lady operating the machine would be a bit late and we gave them the option to wait,” Williams explained.
Williams added that if Hooper was sick, she would assume the responsibility of operating the machine between 7 and 8 a.m.
An investigation was launched into the matter by the National Lotteries Authority, who discovered that, starting 2010, the machine had been opened at various times between 7 and 8 a.m., cleared of all records and started afresh as if it were the first time for the day that the machine was operating.
Reports showed that between September 2010 and July 13, 2011, money collected from lotto sales between 7 and 8 a.m. was not accounted for.
Williams said she asked the Lottery to go as far back as possible to see when the discrepancies began.
She said they gave her a date of September 1, 2010 and she asked if they could not go any further back.
“They said it would be difficult, because they had already erased the records,” Williams said.
Williams said, after consultation with her attorney, a letter was sent to the NLA to obtain earlier records of lotto transactions. Williams indicated that reports of transactions received dated back to April 2010, when the discrepancies began.
Following the discovery that money was missing, a meeting was held with Lottery officials, Hooper, Williams and her husband.
Still during cross examination, James asked Williams why she did not see it fit for Hooper to have someone present with her at the meeting.
James then suggested that his client felt “threatened” and “intimidated” at the meeting and that was why Hooper asked for permission to contact a person by the name of “Teacher Nola”.
“The meeting was never a threatening or intimidating atmosphere. The meeting was quite amicable,” Williams replied.
Prosecution witness Josette King-Chewitt, assistant accountant at the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), in her testimony, said that although the machine is cleared, transactions can still be seen by the NLA.
On July 31, 2011, she said her supervisor told her something and a result, she carried out an inquiry into Lady J’s account and noticed discrepancies for a certain period.
King-Chewitt explained that evidence showed that the lotto machine was being operated for “short periods” of time on mornings between 7 and 8 a.m., cleared and resumed until the end of the day.
Records of transactions read out by Chewitt revealed the different time slots when the machine commenced operation between 7 and 8 a.m. and was cleared. She also detailed the amount of money that was collected from lotto sales between September 2, 2010 and July 13, 2011.
“I concluded that the operator was doing short period sales, cleared the machine and start afresh,” King-Chewitt said.
She also noted that there were no short period sales from the December 5, 2010 to the end of the month, the time when Hooper was on sick leave.
King-Chewitt further noted that the trend of the short period sales re-commenced in January, 2011.
During cross-examination, James asked why was it difficult for the NLA to ascertain records from before September 2010 and King-Chewitt said, “I could not have gone any further than September because there was an upgrade in the system and all the information was archived.”
Defence Counsel James objected when crown counsel, Kareem Nelson tried to admit the report from which King-Chewitt was reading, into evidence during his re-examination of King-Chewitt.
James argued that it was too late at that stage to admit the report into evidence, since the time of King-Chewitt’s testimony in chief and cross-examination had passed.
Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias agreed with James’ objection and told the prosecution the report could not be admitted then.
Head accountant at the NLA, Francine Connell said she found it “unusual”, that a business such as Lady J, would open their machine on July 13 at 7:04 am, close at 7:30 am and re-open after that.
Helen Ollivierre, a sales clerk at Lady J, was also called as a prosecution witness.
The matter is adjourned to August 5 when investigating officer, Malcolm Alexander will take the stand for the prosecution.