CLEARFIELD – A Ramey man pleaded guilty to theft for taking gift cards from his employer in Clearfield County Court.
Stephen Lee Howell, 21, 2190 Union St., Ramey, was charged with a felony count of access device used to obtain property or service, but he pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of theft by unlawful taking. He was sentenced by Judge Paul E. Cherry to 90 days to one year in jail. He was fined $250 plus costs.
The charges stem from incidents at the County Market in Philipsburg in May.
Prior to sentencing, Howell’s attorney, Richard Milgrub, noted that Howell was never in trouble before and he cooperated with the police. He also stated that Howell had taken an extra job to pay the restitution he owed the business in full.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, police were called to the business because the manager suspected Howell of authorizing and taking a $500 gift card. The theft was discovered because there was a negative balance in a register run by Howell. Surveillance footage showed him making the transaction for a $500 gift card and then clearing the transaction but keeping the card.
When questioned about this, Howell denied any wrong doing and said he thought there was a problem with the computer system. After they reviewed the system, they spoke with Howell again. At that point, he admitted he committed the theft. He said he was sorry but since he had not yet spent the money, he offered to return the card. The managers chose to file theft charges against him any way.
Howell was brought to a police station for a formal interview. He was asked if he had committed any other thefts at the store. He said no. The officer continued to question him, stating that it is unusual for someone to start with stealing a $500 card. Howell then admitted he had done this same type of transaction several different times, starting with a $100 gift card. He did this twice more before moving on to a $500 card.
His total including the last card was $1,300. He was unsure of the exact dates but he admitted he had done this for the last few months. He again stated he could return the last $500 card, which he did on a later date.