Two employees of La Samanna charged with stealing food

They appeared before the Saint-Martin criminal court on Thursday morning.

The examination of this case leaves "room for doubt", said the Deputy Prosecutor Michaël Ohayon. In the French judicial system, doubt is good for defendants. The question is whether the two defendants stole food or not from the freezer of the Hotel La Samanna, where they were employed.

At the end of August 2015, the establishment’s security guard saw them putting a bag and a cardboard box in the trunk of a car. The intrigued security officer went and asked them what was in the bag. "When I opened it and saw the food, they were embarrassed," he said. He immediately notified the boss and the management summoned the two employees in the following days for a preliminary interview. Afterwards, they were fired.

But both kept repeating that they had their boss’ permission to take the food. They explained and repeated before the judge that employees are allowed to take perishable foods when the hotel is preparing to close in September. That seems to have been customary for years. And on that day in August 2015, they were allowed to do so for the first time. So they took fish, burgers, pizzas, etc.

Like every day when arriving at the hotel, they passed by the central kitchen to say hello and then went to the kitchen of the beach bar where they work. There, their boss gave them a list of the products that had to get in the cold room located in a different place. They went in a mini-van belonging to the hotel but rode as passengers. Their boss had the keys and he was the one who drove. According to the two women, they all three went in the cold room, took the ingredients that were on the list as well as others for personal purposes but their boss supposedly only mentioned the goods appearing on the list in the exit report.

The attorney for the civil party stressed this detail. "Employees are allowed to take food but under certain conditions. A report must be written," she said while showing the standard form to the court. However, this notorious report was not delivered on that day.

The two employees tried to show their good faith all throughout the hearing. One had been working for the hotel for four years and the other for six years. "My job means everything to me, I wouldn’t take the risk of losing it for $800 (Editor’s note: the estimated amount of the stolen food)," said one of the defendants. They swore they took the food in freezers in good conscience because they "had been authorized to do so" by their boss. But the latter denied this when he was questioned by his manager.

According to the defense attorney, he denied the facts "to protect himself". Because he too supposedly helped himself in the freezer. Without permission. "He took twenty minutes to come to the interview with the management after that the employees had been questioned," said the attorney for whom, "The boss went to hide the food that he had taken."

Although the habit of taking food seems to have been tolerated for years, it no longer seemed to be the case since the arrival of a new boss, who supervised the two employees. And according to the information gathered during the investigation, the two men were in a conflict; the boss of the two women didn’t accept the authority of the new boss. "If he had recognized that they had given the authorization, he would have been fired too", noted the defense attorney who agreed with the prosecutor’s remarks and considers that there is "a lot of room for doubt."

The case was adjourned for further deliberation. The Deputy Prosecutor did not request any particular sentence. "If the court believes that no authorization was given, it can give the two employees a warning. If it has any doubts, the defendants must be acquitted".


Estelle Gasnet