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State v. Bumpas

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 12, 2018


          Session January 17, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2014-D-2676 Steve R. Dozier, Judge

         Following a bench trial in the Criminal Court for Davidson County, the Defendant, Darrell Wayne Bumpas, was convicted of forgery over $1, 000; criminal simulation over $1, 000; theft of property over $1, 000; and two counts of identity theft. For these offenses, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of twelve years to serve in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court improperly admitted into evidence a photocopy of the fraudulent check and still photographs from a bank security camera. He argues that the State failed to properly authenticate the evidence under Tennessee Rules of Evidence 901 and 902. The Defendant also asserts that his sentence is excessive. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Jon David Rogers, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Darrell Wayne Bumpas.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Jennifer Charles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Timothy L. Easter, J., joined.



         Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 31, 2014, the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for one count each of forgery over $1, 000, criminal simulation over $1, 000, theft of property over $1, 000, and two counts of identity theft. On August 1, 2016, the Defendant, through counsel, filed a written motion to waive a trial by jury in accordance with Rule 23 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. At a subsequent bench trial, Dennis Tulpa testified that on July 24, 2014, he worked as a personal banker and teller at Avenue Bank in Green Hills. Mr. Tulpa recalled that, around 4:15 p.m., a man entered the bank and cashed check number 17174 from "Tennessee Valley Home." Mr. Tulpa reviewed two photographs taken from inside Avenue Bank, and he identified himself in the photographs and stated that the photographs depicted where he worked. He noted that the photographs had a time and date stamp, which read "7-24-2014 at 4:18 [p.m.]" Mr. Tulpa testified that the photographs were captured on July 24, 2014, and kept in the regular course of business by Avenue Bank. He explained that the photographs had been printed out from a bank computer where they were stored. Mr. Tulpa identified the Defendant as the customer depicted in the photographs. He stated that the Defendant was a "non-client" of Avenue Bank and did not hold an account at the bank. Mr. Tulpa explained that tellers were instructed pursuant to bank policy that when cashing checks from non-clients they should ask to see a driver's license and copy the information from the license onto the back of the check next to the non-client's signature. Mr. Tulpa recalled that, when the Defendant approached Mr. Tulpa to cash check number 17174, the check bore the Defendant's signature, but he did not see the Defendant physically sign it. Mr. Tulpa viewed a copy of the check that was presented by the Defendant. Mr. Tulpa testified that he wrote the driver's license number, date of birth, expiration date and the date the driver's license was issued onto the back of the check. Mr. Tulpa stated that he got the information from the driver's license the Defendant presented to him. Mr. Tulpa noted that the photograph on the driver's license appeared to match the Defendant. After taking this information, Mr. Tulpa cashed the check, giving the Defendant $1, 810.30.

         Mr. Tulpa explained that the owner of the account on which the check was drawn, Tennessee Valley Homes, Inc. ("TVH"), later contacted Avenue Bank and reported that the check did not belong to them. The bank researched the claim, compared the check cashed by the Defendant to images of checks belonging to TVH and determined the check cashed by the Defendant was counterfeit. Mr. Tulpa stated that it was the policy of the bank that it would not pass along the loss to the client/account holder when a counterfeit check was passed. Instead, the bank incurred the loss of $1, 810.30. Mr. Tulpa testified that he specifically remembered the Defendant because Mr. Tulpa did not "cash bad checks every day, so the incident [stood] out in [his] mind."

         Detective Kevin Allen of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) testified that, on July 24, 2016, he responded to Avenue Bank to investigate a possible fraudulent check passed at the bank. The bank provided Detective Allen with still photographs taken from the bank's security cameras that day, as well as a copy of the signed check. Detective Allen compared the date of birth, driver's license number, and driver's license issuance and expiration dates that were written on the back of the check with the information on the Defendant's driver's license and found that the information on the check matched the Defendant's driver's license. Detective Allen also noted that the photograph of the Defendant on his driver's license resembled the man displayed in the still photographs provided by the bank. Detective Allen testified that the routing number and account number of the check passed by the Defendant matched the routing and account numbers for TVH's account. After speaking with bank personnel, Detective Allen spoke to a representative with TVH, Loraine Cash, about the check. Following his conversation with Ms. Cash, Detective Allen presented the case to the grand jury.

         Loraine Cash testified that she was the office manager at TVH and that she kept the records of the company's financial transactions as part of her job. Ms. Cash recalled that on July 24, 2014, she "was doing the bank reconciliation and noticed that [she] had a dollar amount on the bank rec[onciliation] that was not in [her] computer." Ms. Cash spoke to a representative from Avenue Bank about the check, and the bank provided her with a copy of the check passed by the Defendant. Ms. Cash testified that the company name listed on the check, "Tennessee Valley Home, " was wrong; she explained that the correct name was "Tennessee Valley Homes." She further noted that the date line on the check was in the wrong place. Ms. Cash said that, upon further investigation, she discovered that she had in her possession TVH's check number 17174, and it had not been issued. She stated that the check was "still in the box." Additionally, Ms. Cash searched the company's list of vendors to see if the Defendant had worked for TVH previously. The Defendant's name, however, was not on the vendor list.

         Ms. Cash testified that only four people had "signature line authority" to write checks for TVH-Darrel Reifschneider, James Franks, Shelly Molar, and herself. Ms. Cash explained that Mr. Reifschneider was the secretary of TVH and that Mr. Franks was the president. She said that she was familiar with both of their signatures, as well as Ms. Molar's, and stated that their signatures did not look like the signatures on the check passed by the Defendant. She explained that it took two joint signatures for a check to be properly issued by TVH. Based on all of this information, Ms. Cash determined that the check passed by the Defendant was not issued by TVH and was, therefore, counterfeit. Ms. Cash stated that, due to Avenue Bank's policy, TVH did not incur any financial loss. The bank put the $1, 810.30 back into TVH's account.

         Darrel Reifschneider testified that he was part-owner of TVH, along with James Franks. Mr. Reifschneider explained that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company and that Mr. Franks was the "operating partner." Mr. Reifschneider stated that he did not give permission to the Defendant or anyone else "to create another check other than [TVH's] company check[.]" Mr. Reifschneider testified that neither of the signatures listed on the check passed by the Defendant were his. He stated that, to his knowledge, TVH had never employed the Defendant.

         Jane Eakes, a certified document examiner, testified as an expert in handwriting analysis for the State. She explained that she had been provided with twenty known samples of the Defendant's signature, which she compared to the signature on the check passed by the Defendant at Avenue Bank. Ms. Eakes testified that, based on her training and experience, "all of these signatures were written by the same person" and that the Defendant signed the check passed at Avenue Bank on July 24, 2014.

         The Defendant testified that on July 24, 2014, he went to Avenue Bank in Green Hills and cashed a check that he had received for "some work that [he] had done two weeks prior." When shown the copy of the check passed at Avenue Bank that day, the Defendant said that it "look[ed] like" the check he cashed. He agreed that his signature was on the back of the check, but he noted that his name was misspelled on the front of the check where he was listed as the payee and that his home address was listed incorrectly. The Defendant stated that he did not notice that TVH was misspelled on the front of the check and stated that the check "appear[ed] to be real."

         The Defendant explained that he worked as a subcontractor, and two weeks prior, he responded to an ad on Craigslist about cleaning up an area prior to a building project. The Defendant explained that the work included demolishing a mobile home, cutting down some trees, removing brush, and "tak[ing] all of the trash[.]" The Defendant stated that he could not recall the name of the man from Craigslist who hired him to do the work but stated that the man worked for TVH.[1] The Defendant testified that he met with the man who hired him "out [in] East Nashville" and that the man spoke over the telephone to a lady named "Ms. Merriweather, " who was "over the accounts of [TVH.]" The Defendant stated that he gave Ms. Merriweather a copy of his identification and a copy of his contractor's license. He denied altering the check before it was cashed, and he denied falsifying the front of the check to make it appear that TVH had written him a check. The Defendant stated that the man who had hired him gave him the check. He explained that he received only $400 for his work out of the $1, 800 and that the man who hired the Defendant took the rest of the money to "pay the other workers."

         At the conclusion of testimony, the trial court found the Defendant guilty as charged. The trial court held a separate sentencing hearing, at which the State submitted a copy of the Defendant's presentence report into evidence. Detective Allen testified that, in addition to the instant case, the Defendant had passed a fraudulent check on First Tennessee Bank on the same date as the offense in the instant case, July 24, 2014. Both crimes involved counterfeit checks. The second check was in the amount of $2, 175.50; it was written as payable to the Defendant from ...

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