Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Former Baton Rouge church secretary charged with employer theft

Laws are not lenient for habitual offenders. Louisiana courts make punishments for second and subsequent convictions harsh to deter defendants from repeating crimes. Criminal defense attorneys help to minimize the effects of a criminal past on a defendant's current charges.

A woman convicted in 2002 for stealing money at work was recently charged with doing the same thing to another employer. The one-time church secretary was charged with white collar crimes, after allegedly making personal purchases with debit cards acquired with a Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge credit card.

The 57-year-old woman was never imprisoned for the earlier theft conviction. A judge suspended a five-year prison sentence and replaced it with an equal period of probation. The Ethel woman was convicted of directing $25,000 from her employer, GoGo Worldwide Vacations, to a personal bank account and as part of her sentence, was ordered to pay back the money.

The new charges, felony theft and unauthorized use of an access device card, allege the former secretary stole $41,000 from the diocese over three years, ending in June. The superintendent's secretary had authority to use the employer's credit card but did not have permission to buy prepaid debit cards.

The defendant apparently bought the debit cards at two Office Depot locations, which she used to make food, drug and other purchases and pay phone, cable television and veterinarian bills. Authorities stated store surveillance cameras showed a customer, matching the defendant's description, making transactions coinciding with dates and times of the debit cards' use.

The diocese spotted the financial discrepancies during an audit. Church officials noticed the debit card purchases ended after the secretary was fired.

The consequences for repeating the same crime can be far more severe than penalties for a first-time offense. The chances of facing the full brunt of those punishments may diminish the earlier the help of a criminal defense attorney is enlisted.

Source: The Advocate, "Catholic Diocese secretary arrested in thefts" Ryan Broussard, Jul. 31, 2014

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