Former cashier at Saline's Country Market ordered to stand trial on embezzlement charge
Corporate officials responsible for Saline's Country Market didn’t catch on that someone was stealing thousands of dollars worth of lottery receipts for almost three years.
But once they did uncover cash discrepancies totaling more than $71,000, it didn’t take long to pinpoint Angela McKenzie as a suspect.
The 46-year-old former head cashier was the only one authorized to operate the self-serve lottery machine in the front of the store, multiple witnesses testified at her preliminary hearing.
“I dropped the ball. I trusted her,” said Michael Zippay, McKenzie’s direct supervisor at the Saline grocery store.
He said McKenzie, who came from another store in the chain in 2007, had exclusive control of the machine among store officials. He wasn’t even aware of where the keys or machine passwords were kept.
With that trust, authorities allege, McKenzie took more than $32,000 in lottery machine proceeds in 2008 and another $39,000 in 2009. The thefts were uncovered by another employee in August, and a company review prompted by the criminal investigation showed she could be responsible for as much as $81,000 in missing revenue when including 2010.
Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Reiser said McKenzie would regularly empty the machine and then cash out the exact amount in a grocery return from her register.
“There is a clear pattern of high lottery sales along with a high return,” Reiser said. The returns varied in amounts from $39 to more than $600, witnesses said. Reiser also said time cards and individualized cash register passwords tied McKenzie to the crimes.
Art Aisner | For AnnArbor.com
But Jeffrey Bennett, McKenzie’s attorney, said those records can and have been manipulated before. Multiple employees, including McKenzie, were admonished for allowing co-workers to use each other’s registers and passwords, company documents show.
“They are not able to establish that Mrs. McKenzie is responsible,” he argued. “There is a history of people using other people’s passwords, and there is no way to tie her to this activity.”
McKenzie, of South Lyon, will face trial on one count of embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000 sometime next year.
District Judge Kirk Tabbey said it was admirable for Zippay to “fall on the sword.” But he said in his experience as a prosecutor for 14 years before becoming a judge, the fraud suspects usually slip into a pattern of deceit and rely on their abilities and other people’s trust until they make a mistake.
“Significant probable cause has been shown that embezzlement occurred in this time frame. It points to no one else,” Tabbey said.
McKenzie remains free on $10,000 personal bond.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.