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State v. White

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 12, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CINDY THERESA WHITE

          On Appeal from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana No. 579279, Div. "G" The Honorable Scott Gardner, Judge Presiding

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney Matthew Caplan Butch Wilson Assistant District Attorneys Covington, Louisiana Attorneys for Plaintiff State of Louisiana

          Sherry Watters Louisiana Appellate Project New Orleans, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/Appellant Cindy Theresa White

          BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          HOLDRIDGE, J.

         The defendant, Cindy Theresa White, was charged by bill of information with identity theft at a value of one thousand dollars or more, a violation of La. R.S. 14:67.16(C)(1)(a), and pled not guilty.[1] After a trial by jury, she was found guilty as charged. The trial court denied the defendant's motion for postverdict judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. The defendant was sentenced to ten years imprisonment at hard labor.[2] The trial court denied the defendant's motion to reconsider sentence. She now appeals, assigning error to the sufficiency of the evidence and the constitutionality of the sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         In August of 2015, Diversified Foods and Seasonings, LLC, (Diversified), a company in Covington, was seeking to hire a Human Resources (H.R.) Manager. Kimberly Wilson, the payroll supervisor at Diversified at the time, assisted in the company's efforts to fill the position. Wilson posted ads for the position on several job search websites, including Monster.com, LinkedIn, and Nola.com (the online version of the Times-Picayune Newspaper). As detailed in the ads, the position required a Bachelor's Degree (B.A.) in Human Resource Management, eight to ten years of experience in H.R., and at least three years of experience in a leadership role in a fast-paced business environment.

         On or about August 16, 2015, Wilson received a cover letter and resume from Cindy White (the defendant) via e-mail, in response to the ads for the H.R. manager position. Among the credentials provided in the education section of the resume was a "B.A. History/Business Administration Management With a Concentration in Human Resources Tulane University" and a "M.A. Community Leadership & Philanthropy Studies The Hebrew University."

         The company received approximately sixty-five electronic applications for the position. Wilson evaluated each application to determine if the applicant met the minimum criteria for the position before forwarding qualified submissions for interviews. After the interviews, the company sent personality and behavior assessments to three candidates, including the defendant. On or near September 18, 2015, the defendant was offered the position, which she accepted. The defendant officially began working for the company on September 30, 2015. In order to allow the company to obtain a credit check and a background check, the defendant was required to execute release of information and background investigation disclosure forms. The defendant provided the same social security number on each form and a Georgia driver's license number.

         Wilson was responsible for providing the defendant with the on-boarding paperwork, which required a copy of her driver's license, social security card, Employment Eligibility Verification Form, federal and state tax forms, affirmative action form, and a policy acknowledgment form. Unbeknownst to the company at the time, the social security number provided on the on-boarding paperwork, the defendant's social security card, and the provided driver's license number differed from the numbers initially provided by the defendant on the release of information and background investigation disclosure forms. The defendant further signed the job description form, which provided a list of the minimum academic qualifications, work experience, and skills for the position, including the bachelor's degree requirements.

         Shortly after the defendant was hired, in October of 2015, Dorothy "Erin" Kielly, the Director of Risk Management and the Paralegal for Al Copeland Investments (the parent company of Diversified), became concerned when the defendant failed to perform an assigned task. Kielly subsequently discovered that the defendant delegated to a "plat level employee" severe injury reporting to OSHA, one of the defendant's personal responsibilities for Diversified. After Kielly confronted the defendant about the inappropriate delegation, Kielly learned that the defendant again delegated another upper-level task to a plat level employee. After reporting her concerns to her immediate supervisor, Kielly was told that there had been concerns regarding the defendant's knowledge versus her credentials, and Kielly was instructed to verify the defendant's educational background.

         Kielly initially used the numbers on the defendant's photocopied social security card and driver's license to perform an online search through the National Student Clearing House and found no record of the defendant's purported education. When Kielly contacted the registrar's office at Tulane University, she was told that they had no record of the defendant ever attending the university based on her name and social security number. As her suspicions grew, Kielly took a closer look at the defendant's employee file and located documentation of the other social security number that the defendant had initially provided. When she once again contacted Tulane University registrar's office and provided the other social security number, she was informed that the university did have a record of a graduate named Cynthia White. Keilly then performed a Google search using the name Cynthia White and discovered a LinkedIn profile for Cynthia White that included the credentials that the defendant had provided in her resume and which indicated that Cynthia worked at the Veterans Administration. Keilly ultimately spoke to Cynthia White, who confirmed that the LinkedIn profile belonged to her and also verified her social security number. Due to her falsification of documents, the defendant's employment was terminated on April 25, 2016, and her conduct was reported to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office (STPSO).

         In May of 2016, Cynthia White was informed by the STPSO that an individual had used her social security number, resume, and academic credentials to acquire a job. At the time of the trial, Cynthia was employed as a Voluntary Service Specialist at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System of the Department of Veteran Affairs in New Orleans. She attended Tulane University where she earned a B.A. in History and participated in the Navy's R.O.T.C. program. After graduation she became a surface warfare officer in the Navy for over two years. She further obtained an M.A. in ...


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