TWIN FALLS • A Taco Bell employee used more than 30 fraudulent refunds over the course of seven months to steal more than $1,700 from the fast food restaurant, police said.

James Forest Patterson, 39, of Twin Falls was arraigned Monday in Twin Falls County Magistrate Court on a felony count of grand theft by unauthorized control.

Prosecutors say Patterson used his access to the cash register to complete more than 30 fraudulent refunds between Aug. 30 and Feb. 19, with the largest single refund being $124.40, court documents said. In total, he’s accused of stealing $1,735.20

Taco Bell managers told police they knew it was Patterson because he used his thumbprint to access the cash register, court documents said. An area manager told officers all the transactions “occurred on Mr. Patterson’s shift, while he was working,” and that “every refunded transaction occurred after closing hours.”

“There is no reason an employee should be conducting refunds after business hours,” the manager told police. “Especially for the large dollar amounts.”

Before contacting police, managers confronted Patterson and he agreed to pay back what he owed by having money subtracted from his paycheck, court documents said. But when managers found more unauthorized refunds they called the police.

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Patterson admitted to stealing money but said it was only $672 and he had done it only over the past two weeks, court documents said. But later he told an officer he had started taking money from the register after doing fake refunds “probably around Christmas time.”

Patterson, who is on felony probation for a drug charge out of Cassia County, is being held in Twin Falls County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 11.

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