LSU police say students targeted in restaurant fraud scheme

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The parade ground-side front entrance to the LSU Student Union in 2010 got new aggregate-covered, steel-rod-backed slatted rails to match previous designs, and new metal rails to bring the construction up to code with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Show caption
Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The parade ground-side front entrance to the LSU Student Union in 2010 got new aggregate-covered, steel-rod-backed slatted rails to match previous designs, and new metal rails to bring the construction up to code with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Several employees of the McDonald’s restaurant inside LSU’s Student Union stole at least $30,000 from students over the past year in a fraud scheme possibly dating back several years, an LSU Police investigation found.

Four people were arrested Wednesday and police expect to make at least one more arrest following an investigation that revealed cashiers and managers were overcharging students on school-issued debit cards, pocketing the difference and falsifying records to hide the thefts, according to LSU Police.

McDonald’s couldn’t provide financial records from before March 2013 to police. But from that time until recently, records indicate, some employees overcharged students by more than $31,000, according to arrest warrants.

A portion of many students’ meal plans includes money dedicated to “paw points,” which can only be spent at certain restaurants, stores and stadiums on or near LSU’s campus. Many locations, such as the McDonald’s, have special card scanners for school-issued debit cards to process the transactions.

According to arrest warrants, employees involved in the scheme would ring up meals for the correct amount on the store’s cash register. Then, when they went to type in the amount of paw points spent at the second scanner, some employees would overcharge students’ accounts, usually by increments of $1, $5 or $10.

Students wouldn’t be provided receipts and store employees would later adjust financial records to balance the register, a detective wrote in the warrants.

Following an anonymous tip about the scheme, investigators found during a two-day period in October the store processed more than $1,400 in overcharges, the warrant says.

One woman implicated in the scheme told investigators “to her knowledge they have been doing this since the early part of 2012 and possibly before that, as early as the implementation of that system,” which occurred in 2010, according to the warrants.

Another woman told detectives the scheme had been going on for at least a year.

Those arrested include: Jeannine A. Rooks, 34; Constance Lacole Brown, 31; Bertrand Lawrence Brown, 34; and Danielle Marie Casey, 23, all of Baton Rouge, according to LSU Police.

The four will be booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on felony theft counts, said Capt. Cory Lalonde, a LSU Police spokesman.

At least two other people were issued summonses on misdemeanor theft counts, according to police.