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State v. Banks

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

February 28, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
MONICA BANKS, Defendant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Cause No. 1422-CR02303-01 Honorable Steven R. Ohmer

          COLLEEN DOLAN, JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Monica Banks ("Defendant") appeals her conviction of one count of forgery in violation of RSMo § 570.090 following a bench trial.[1] Defendant claims the trial court erred because there was insufficient evidence of Defendant's intent to defraud and insufficient evidence of the document's capability for effecting fraud. Because the State presented sufficient evidence that Defendant intended to commit forgery when she presented the document showing an altered account balance to her employer, this Court affirms the conviction.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant was employed by Jacqueline Phillips ("Phillips"), the owner of Personal Care Home Health Services, Inc. ("Personal Care"), where she received payments through direct deposit to an account managed by Paychex payroll services. Phillips discovered Paychex had mistakenly overpaid several employees, including Defendant, with double deposits on April 22, 2014. Paychex was able to retrieve the overpaid money from every employee's account except Defendant's, which had insufficient funds. Phillips spoke with Defendant, who told Phillips the money had been "reversed" back into the company account. However, Phillips was unable to verify Defendant's claim through her examination of the company's records or through Paychex's investigation. Paychex requested documentation from Defendant showing her overpayment of $1, 115.03 had been reversed.

         On June 12, 2014, Defendant gave Phillips a document, which she represented to be a bank statement of her account, showing a reversal of the missing funds back to the company. Phillips suspected it had been altered because the line with the reversal was in a different font, and the numbers did not add up. After this discovery, Phillips took steps to confirm her suspicion. She checked Defendant's work computer, which showed Defendant had recently accessed her account balance thirty times. In the company trash, Phillips found copies of Defendant's account balance that were cut up and contained different amounts than the one Defendant provided to Phillips, including one with a taped "reversal, $1, 115.42" over one of the lines and a cutout of a reversal to Personal Care.

         Phillips contacted the police and confronted Defendant about the altered account balance, and Defendant said she did not know what Phillips was talking about. Defendant was arrested by Detective Ramiro Martinez ("Martinez"). Martinez testified Defendant was read her Miranda rights and then orally admitted altering the account balance. Martinez also testified Defendant signed a written statement containing, "…I tried to fool my employer by altering a bank statement, " which was entered into evidence.

         The State charged Defendant with one count of forgery. After a bench trial, the court found Defendant guilty and sentenced her to fifteen years, then suspended the sentence and imposed a probationary term of five years. Defendant now appeals.

         III. Standard of Review

         We review the sufficiency of the evidence in a bench trial of a criminal case using the same standard as a jury-tried case. State v. Livingston-Rivard, 461 S.W.3d 463, 466 (Mo. App. S.D. 2015); Rule 27.01.[2] This Court determines "whether the State presented sufficient evidence from which a trier of fact could have reasonably found the defendant guilty; and in so doing, we examine the evidence and inferences in the light most favorable to the verdict, ignoring all contrary evidence and inferences." State v. Brown, 360 S.W.3d 919, 922 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012) (citing State v. Johnson, 244 S.W.3d 144, 152 (Mo. banc 2008)).

         IV. Discussion

         a. The State presented sufficient evidence to prove intent to defraud.

         Defendant claims the State presented insufficient evidence to prove Defendant had the intent to defraud, a requisite element for forgery. Defendant argues other reasonable inferences could be made for why she gave an altered account balance to ...


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