FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA,
NO. 13-2074 HONORABLE ANTHONY THIBODEAUX, DISTRICT JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR: Plaintiff/Appellee - State of Louisiana M. Craig
Colwart St. Mary Parish Indigent Defender Board
COUNSEL FOR: Plaintiff/Appellee - State of Louisiana M.
Bofill Duhé W. Claire Howington
COUNSEL FOR: Defendant/Appellant - Tanya Buteaux Richard
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D.
Saunders, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.
ULYSSES GENE THIBODEAUX, CHIEF JUDGE.
Tanya Buteaux, appeals her jury conviction of three counts of
theft of $1, 500.00 or more, violations of La.R.S. 14:67. The
trial court sentenced Ms. Buteaux to five years at hard labor
on each count, to be served concurrently, with all but two
years suspended, and five years supervised probation upon
release from incarceration. The court also ordered Ms.
Buteaux to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of
affirm her convictions and sentences and remand with
Buteaux raises only one issue on appeal:
whether the evidence was sufficient to support a guilty
verdict on all three counts of theft?
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Buteaux managed the Spanish Lakes One Stop gas station
convenience store in New Iberia. The State alleged that Ms.
Buteaux stole almost two hundred fifty thousand dollars from
the store between January 1, 2011, to April 30,
State presented evidence of theft perpetrated through a
scheme whereby Ms. Buteaux manipulated daily store statements
(reconciliation sheets) to short the cash deposits. The State
first called George J. Trappey III, a certified public
accountant who was qualified as an expert in accounting and
tax preparation. In his testimony, Mr. Trappey stated that he
prepared the tax returns and financial statements for the
store in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He then explained how he first
discovered a problem while preparing the store's 2012
business tax reports:
Okay. When I was doing the 2012 year-end work, which I would
have been working on in late March or early April of 2013,
they have an account called "cash transfers". And
what happens is, off of these monthly reports, all of the
sales activity are recorded. And the total cash that should
have been deposited in the checking account is shown as a
debit to this cash transfer account where it's based on
those computer reports off the store system. This is how much
cash should have went in the bank. Then, as they make
deposits, that cash transfers account is credited or reduced
for the actual deposits.
And so what happened during 2012 is, that cash transfer
account just kept building a balance. And when we got to the
end of the year, there was a $68, 000 balance left in that
account that I couldn't explain why that balance was
still there and why all of the cash that should have been
deposited wasn't being deposited. So we had this $68, 000
unexplained difference that we couldn't figure out. So it
just got me concerned. And so that's really when I called
Mark Musso and said, "Mark, there's something not
right. We've got this balance in this cash transfer
account that I can't explain. And, you know, it's too
big of an amount to just adjust." And so that's when
he kinda started digging into the records at the store.
this discovery, he looked at the monthly reports generated by
the store's computer to see "what the sales . . .
were . . . based on what the registers . . . sa[id] they
should be" and compared them to what the sales were
based on the accounting records. Based on his review, he
found a discrepancy of "$16, 000" in 2010,
"$48, 699" in 2011, and "$101, 626" in
2012. When asked if it was possible that Susan Musso, who
prepared the general ledger, may have been making mistakes in
her accounting, Mr. Trappey agreed that it was possible but
stated that "on my professional opinion, being a CPA for
43 years, you know, to me, the difference was a shortage that
had to be accounted for by theft."
Musso and his wife, Susan, co-owned the convenience store
with another couple. The Mussos were responsible for
operating the store, and their partner was responsible for
all the legal aspects of owning and operating a gas station
convenience store. Mr. Musso testified that Ms. Buteaux
worked at the store from 2002 until 2013. She started as a
cashier, then moved up to manager in 2007 or 2008. According
to his testimony, Ms. Buteaux grossed five hundred dollars a
week plus bonuses and was given a gas fill-up once a week.
manager, one of Ms. Buteaux's responsibilities was
preparing the cash deposits daily, which consisted of cash
and checks only. Her work schedule was from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00
p.m. Between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., Ms. Buteaux prepared
the previous day's cash deposit, after which she would
lock the deposit bag. Later in the morning, Ms. Musso would
take the deposit bag to the bank where the bank teller would
unlock the bag and return a bank statement reflecting the
deposit amount to Ms. Musso.
Musso explained that originally the store's gas
distributor was Exxon and that the cash deposit calculation
was done a certain way. However, in approximately 2009, the
store switched to Shell, and the cash deposit calculation was
handled differently. Every day, a set amount of cash was put
into the store's two cash registers, and a set amount was
left in the safe allocated for change in pre- counted tubes.
During the day, if a cashier needed extra cash for making
change, he or she would simply punch a button, and the extra
money would drop from a tube directly from the safe. When the
money in the till reached a certain amount, the cashier would
then drop the excess amount into an inaccessible compartment
of the safe. Mr. Musso explained that all of the money
allocated for change was held in a separate compartment of
the safe from the compartment that held the money
"dropped" into the safe, which "goes all the
way to the bottom." Each time a cashier dropped money
into the safe, the computer generated a report with the time
of the drop and the cashier's employee I.D.
end of the day, the amount of money taken out of the safe for
change was the "paid-in." Mr. Musso explained:
Because we had a reconciliation statement which took the
G-SITE reports which were computerized, and they were
reconciled to a day. And on that day report, there's a
category called paid-in. On our Exxon statement, if you did
$10, 000 of revenue and ...