A 48-year-old Houma man has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from his employer, prosecutors said.
Robert Yanos Tipton, of Westside Boulevard, was originally scheduled to stand trial this week but chose to plead guilty Tuesday to theft over $25,000.
Following Tipton’s plea, District Judge Johnny Walker sentenced him to 20 years behind bars.
Tipton was originally arrested in 2017 following an investigation by the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office. The defendant had worked for two months as an office manager who handled the finances for Houma-based Michael Hyde Construction, authorities said.
In 2016, Tipton began depositing his payroll checks through a mobile banking application while cashing hard copies of the same checks at multiple check-cashing businesses, authorities said.
“He was basically double-dipping,” said Assistant District Attorney Seth Dodd, who prosecuted the case. “Discrepancies in the financial records started popping up.”
There were several payroll checks where Tipton received money for the same check twice, investigators said. An inventory of the business also revealed Tipton forged the owner’s signature on multiple company checks and paid his personal credit card bills using company funds.
During his interview with detectives on July 12, 2017, Tipton admitted to stealing the money but claimed he didn’t know the exact amount. Investigators said he made off with well over $100,000.
“I would (inaudible) the mobile app and then I’d basically deposit it,” Tipton says in a transcript of the police interview.
“OK, so you do admit that you were double-negotiating your checks,” Lt. Danielle LeBoeuf says in the transcript.
“I don’t know what they call it but basically (inaudible),” the defendant says.
“OK, and then once you would deposit the check by electronic mobile app then you would take the actual paper check, and what would you do with the paper check?” the detective asks.
“I would deposit it,” Tipton says.
Dodd praised the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation that helped lead to the conviction.
“His confession was basically a blueprint of how he committed the crime,” Dodd said.
Tipton has a history of financial crimes including at least two prior convictions in Oklahoma, Dodd said.
Overall, Dodd said the state was satisfied with the outcome.
“The victim was present in court and was happy with the plea,” Dodd said. “From our perspective, when the victim’s on board it makes it a lot easier to do our job. In cases like this when you have someone who has done similar crimes before they deserve jail time. For the amount of time he stays off the streets it will prevent somebody else from being taken advantage of by him. So justice was served.”
Tipton’s court-appointed attorney, Kathryn Lirette, could not be reached for comment.
-- Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.