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State v. McCullough

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 9, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
DANYELLE MCCULLOUGH

          Assigned on Briefs June 6, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-02525 W. Mark Ward, Judge.

         Defendant, Danyelle McCullough, was charged with one count of theft over $1, 000 and one count of forgery over $1, 000 in an indictment returned by the Shelby County Grand Jury. Following a jury trial, she was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of four years for each count to be served in confinement. In this appeal, Defendant's sole issue is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Charles Edgar Waldman, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Danyelle McCullough.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Byron Winsett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         FACTS

         On October 2, 2008, Defendant began working as the sole employee and manager of AAA Cash Fast located at 5000 Raleigh LaGrange Road in Memphis. The store was one of three businesses owned by Gordon Ballinger that provided both check advance loans and automobile title loans to customers at each store. An employee from one of Mr. Ballinger's other store locations would occasionally fill in for Defendant. Mr. Ballinger testified in detail concerning the intricacies of his businesses and how the company would "charge off" any loan that was not paid back or rewritten within 31 days of the due date. Mr. Ballinger testified that he kept close track of the "charge off" rates at each store, and he awarded bonuses to employees at stores who kept that rate below ten percent. He took corrective action when a store consistently exceeded a charge off rate of ten percent.

         Mr. Ballinger testified that before Defendant became the manger of the Raleigh LaGrange store, the charge off rate sometimes rose to between eleven and twelve percent and then it dropped back down to less than ten percent. In July 2009, Mr. Ballinger noticed that Defendant's charge off rate at the Raleigh LaGrange store was significantly higher than the ten percent threshold. He noted that "her numbers were going up into the twenties on occasions." Mr. Ballinger testified that he had terminated previous employees for having numbers that high but because he and his wife knew Defendant they wanted to "give her the benefit of the doubt" and help her be successful. Mr. Ballinger talked with Defendant, who claimed that she was not adequately trained by manager Gloria Jones, which surprised Mr. Ballinger because "Gloria had been part of the training for everybody that we've hired in the last fifteen years." Defendant then asked to be retrained. He transferred Defendant to another store to be trained by store manager Dorothy Wilder. Mr. Ballinger testified that after Defendant left the Raleigh LaGrange store for retraining, the charge off numbers dropped to below ten percent while a clerk from another store worked there. Defendant returned as manager of the Raleigh LaGrange store on August 24, 2009. She told Mr. Ballinger that she had learned a great deal from Ms. Wilder and that Ms. Wilder had taught her about "collections."

         Mr. Ballinger testified that the charge off rate at the Raleigh LaGrange store began to rise three to four weeks after Defendant returned as the manager. He did not immediately notice the increase due to several urgent situations that occurred during that time. Mr. Ballinger testified that he finally noticed the problems with Defendant's charge off rates on January 25, 2010. He noted that the rate was between seventeen and nineteen percent.

         Mr. Ballinger and two other employees reviewed the files at the Raleigh LaGrange location and discovered evidence of rampant fraud and theft. Defendant refused to come in and discuss the situation with Mr. Ballinger, and she was suspended while police conducted their investigation. Mr. Ballinger noted that there were discrepancies in more than forty of the accounts at the Raleigh LaGrange location. The State presented evidence at trial concerning nine of those accounts in which Defendant falsified loan documents and pocketed money supposedly loaned to the individuals whose names were on the documents. Defendant was the only person working in the Raleigh LaGrange Store when the money was taken. The total amount taken from the nine loans was $2, 580.00.

         Defendant claimed that Mr. Ballinger fired her before she had an opportunity to speak with him. She denied pocketing the money or signing a check without the customer's permission. Defendant further claimed that Mr. Ballinger had authorized a mutual friend to sign loan documents and rewrite checks for him. She also said that other employees often covered for her ...


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