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4 theft arrests follow Baton Rouge restaurant fraud probe

A training period follows an employee's hiring, under the supervision of a manager or a co-worker. New workers follow instructions and do what they're told, often without questioning why. Employees assume business practices are legal and may not know when they aren't.

Four Baton Rouge restaurant workers were booked on felony charges for theft. The defendants worked at McDonald's in the Student Union at Louisiana State University. Campus police claim the employees, including managers, stole over $31,000 from college customers.

Campus police traced intentional overcharges on school debit cards to March 2013, as far back as the restaurant's financial records went. At least two people connected to the case told authorities the scheme had been going on for a long time. One woman said she was aware of thefts in 2012, but indicated they might have started much earlier.

The thefts apparently were confined to LSU debit cards tied to the school's meal plans. Students' debit cards were issued with a certain number of "paw points," which could be cashed in at select businesses. The Student Union McDonald's dedicated a separate scanner just for the "paw points" transactions.

According to arrest warrants, employees involved in the theft rang up orders in the usual way, but overcharged student accounts on the "paw points" scanner. Overcharges were relatively small, usually $1 to $10 at a time, and no receipts were given. Employees kept the overcharges and altered the store's financial records to hide the discrepancies.

LSU police investigated after receiving a tip. Authorities apparently confirmed overcharges of $1,400 at the restaurant over two days in October. The four arrests were recent, and a fifth apparently is pending.

For a prosecutor to achieve a criminal conviction for theft, it's important to establish whether a defendant knew he or she was committing a crime. There is no theft without intent to deprive someone else of something they have.

Source: The Advocate, "LSU police say students targeted in restaurant fraud scheme" Ben Wallace, Apr. 02, 2014

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