By LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO – Writing hot checks has resulted in a Palo Pinto County jury assessing Paula Kay Freeman, 43, with a $10,000 fine and a 75-year sentence in prison.
Freeman had already pleaded guilty in court, according to Palo Pinto County District Attorney Mike Burns, who said the defendant asked to be sentenced by a jury. The trial to assess her punishment took all day Tuesday. Burns said jurors deliberated for an estimate 40 minutes on Wednesday before assessing her punishment.
In addition to the time and fine, Palo Pinto County District Judge Mike Moore added $27,300 in resitution – the amount of hot checks Freeman wrote on a 73-year-old
Palo Pinto County resident’s account, according to Burns.
He explained that the defendant, currently a Corsicana resident, worked as a cook at the Crazy Water Retirement Hotel from January to August 2012.
“She passed 66 fraudulent checks on [the senior man’s] account for a $27,300 total loss,” Burns said. “This was a 73-year-old, three-time Vietnam veteran, who retired after 23 years of active service in the Army.”
Burns explained some facts that came out in trial included that the defendant “worked as an employee [cook] in the Crazy Water Retirement Hotel in 2012 and had access to residents’ rooms. The State produced evidence that she stole mutliple books of this 73-year-old man’s checking account.”
Burns explained that between that January-to-August period, Freeman used the 66 checks to purchase “merchandise at Walmart.”
“She ceased her employment when the Crazy Water closed and lived on [the victim’s] checking account. Her husband was in on this and he is also charge, we haven’t gotten to his case,” Burns said.
“The way they did this was by using the system at Walmart.”
He explained that the store has a “machine that checks the electronic numbers on a check. It doesn’t look at the balance, and they do not ask for ID – it’s Walmart policy, that’s what the evidence was according to witnesses from Walmart. The only way they will ask for ID is if an account is flagged. They do not unilaterally ask for ID.”