Deputies: Former clerks steal nearly $18K in discount scheme, other suspects wanted

Posted at 11:00 AM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-28 06:32:36-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Two Tallahassee women are facing fraud and grand theft charges after deputies say they conducted nearly $18,000 worth of fraudulent transactions while working at a local Winn Dixie store. 

Syneda Francis, 26, turned herself in on Dec. 26 and got out on a $1,501 bond the next day. Princess Tolliver, 27, was taken into custody by the Leon County Sheriff's Office on Dec. 20 and has since gotten out of jail.

A warrant was issued for the women's arrests on Dec. 4. 

According to a complaint document, an asset protection member with Winn Dixie found out that from Dec. 2016 through Feb. 2017, Tolliver and Francis conducted many fraudulent transactions while working as checkout clerks at the branch on North Monroe Street. That branch is now shut down. 

The nature of the fraud involved an abnormal amount of coupons and fraudulent discounts applied to the same select customers' purchases. 

Tolliver and Francis used coupons given to them by the customers or manually keyed in an excessive amount of discount codes for the transactions. 

In addition, the asset protection member told investigators that Tolliver and Francis didn't scan certain items placed on the scanning belt and simply picked up the items from the belt, placing them in the bagging area. 

Many of the receipts indicated a grand total of items less than $10, despite having hundreds of dollars worth of groceries in the cart.  

The asset protection member told deputies that Tolliver used to be a manager and was very familiar with the processing of coupons and discounts. He said that there would never be a time when coupons would be scanned before groceries because the purpose of the coupons is to discount items that have already been scanned. 

Tolliver was also given override codes as a manager and apparently used her own override codes to complete the transactions when the discount codes she entered were flagged needing approval.  

Court documents stated there were also gift cards bought during the fraudulent transactions done by Tolliver and Francis. 

For most of those purchases, despite containing hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards, the customers would give less than $20 to pay for the entire transaction.  

According to the asset protection member, before these incidents started happening, the former store manager, instituted a store wide policy in which cashiers were to accept "all coupons," in the spirit of customer service.  

Despite the policy, he said no clerk should have been scanning coupons before purchases, entering fraudulent discount codes, or not scanning groceries. 

After reviewing the video of each transaction, deputies said it is apparent that there are several unknown suspects in addition to Tolliver and Francis. Deputies stated the customers that Tolliver and Francis did these transactions for appeared to be the same group of about 4-5 women.  

There were also some additional clerks with Winn Dixie that appeared to be involved in the bagging of unscanned groceries. Deputies said the items in the transactions consisted mostly of meat, baby products, gift cards, cleaning supplies, and toiletries.   

The total amount stolen by Francis and Tolliver was $17,634.72. 

Documents say Tolliver, Francis, and the former store manager had all been fired or resigned since the investigation began. 

Investigators say Francis admitted to the asset protection member to accepting the coupons, but claims she only did so under the instruction of the former store manager. Additionally, Francis admitted to buying the groceries off the other unidentified suspects for half-price. 

Based on the evidence provided and video footage, Francis is being charged with organized scheme to defraud. Tolliver is being charged with grand theft of $5,000 or more but less than $10,000 and organized scheme to defraud.