A Lincoln County jury acquitted Roger Hood Jr., of North Platte of theft Wednesday after deliberating for less than a hour.
Hood had been charged with theft from a Timesaver ATM machine owned by R&C Petroleum at the convenience store at 1220 So. Dewey St. that Hood managed in 2011.
One of Hood’s managerial duties was to refill the cash in the ATM. According to an audit of records, $7,500 turned up missing between April 1-May 31, 2011, prosecutors said.
A hard drive inside the ATM records all transactions, which are then typically printed out on a continuous strip of paper at the end of each month, similar to a cash register tape. After the transactions are printed on the log tape, the drive is cleared to begin recording for another month, Deputy Lincoln County Attorney Jennifer Wellan said.
In court, Wellan showed the tape for the time in question. It was neatly torn into sections and time periods of less than a month. The tears coincided with times the machine was refilled.
Wellan said sections were missing to remove records of some transactions. Wellan accused Hood of printing out the log more frequently to cover up transactions and confuse someone who investigated.
Wellan also accused Hood of not following proper procedures when he refilled the cash drawer.
Company owner Todd Schwindt testified that company policy is that two people must be present when the ATM’s cash cassette is filled for security reasons. But only one of them – the store manager – is supposed to know the passwords and exact procedures.
It is a considerable process to refill the cassette. A key and a code are needed to open the machine. Another key removes a cassette drawer with the cash. The cassette must then be mounted on a special refilling tray before it can be opened.
The manager counts money that remains in the cassette, then adds the amount being put in and enters the total on a keyboard in the machine.
With sworn statements by witnesses, Wellan showed that Hood taught at least two other employees the process.
Schwindt said he did not give permission for Hood to show the procedure to anyone else.
Wellan accused Hood of deliberately showing the procedure to others to set up scapegoats to cover his theft, and also said Hood didn’t want anyone else watching him fill the cash cassette because they might see that he was stealing.
But Hood said that he was never told that he couldn’t train anyone else, nor was he informed of the two-person policy.
Defense attorney Pat Hays cast doubts that Hood was the culprit. He noted that Hood continued to work at Time Saver after the thefts were suspected. Hood even received a raise in June 2011.
Hays said police were not called to investigate until near the end of August -- three months after the tapes were torn and the money went missing.
Hays said it was strange that shortages were not questioned sooner by R&C Office Manager Christy Faling. He said the bank account for the ATM had dropped so low at one point that a check Faling wrote for cash so Hood could refill the machine was more than the bank account balance. But even then nothing was said to Hood. Faling simply wrote another smaller check to refill the machine, Hays noted.
Hays said it seemed strange that no one noticed the missing money for several months because bank statements should be reconciled with the machine print-out at least once a month.
Hays said those who Hood taught to refill the ATM had as much access to the cash as Hood. Also, Time Saver employees said they commonly saw the ATM keys on Hood’s desk, readily accessible to others.
Hays said it made no sense for Hood to tear off parts of the print out, which would be more likely to raise suspicions at a glance, because the normal practice was for the print-out to be on one continuous tape.
Hays told the jury that the state did not present nearly enough evidence to prove Hood guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jury of eight men and four women agreed. They found Hood not guilty.