What will happen to a server who gets caught altering the customer’s credit card tip?

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What will happen to a server who gets caught altering the customer’s credit card tip?

A customer called in and informed the restaurant that their server had adjusted
their tip, making it 3 more than the amount the customer wrote. When
management pulled the servers credit card slips, they discovered about 100
possibly more more slips that the server had changed. The restaurant fired the
server immediately after discovering this, and the management was very
surprised and disappointed because the server was always treated as one of their
best employees, because she was very reliable and covered many shifts when the
restaurant was in a bind. The server was very well liked by the staff and the
customers. The server’s reason for doing it was not out of spite, but because if
the servers’ credit card tips are below a certain percentage, they will not have the
opportunity to work during the busy hours, or the sections that are known to make
more money.
When the manager fired the server, they informed her that they will be
investigating further to see how many altered slips they can find, and then they
will have their corporate attorneys contact her.
If the amount is over 1,000 total, but less than 2,000, is there anything she can
do to fix this and avoid serving jail time? Is the restaurant obligated to call the
police and report her? And if they do, what kind of charges is she facing? Should
she hire an attorney?
She is very ashamed and very remorseful. She now sees that stealing a few dollars
from many patrons was a very bad mistake. The restaurant is located in
Scottsdale, AZ. She has worked there for 2 years and only started forging the
credit card tips over the last 5 months she worked there.

Asked on October 2, 2016 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) No, the restaurant is not obligated to report this to the police--they may, but there is no legal requirement to report theft.
2) If it's between $1,000 and $2,000, then it is a class 6 misdomeanor and she would get a sentence of at least 4 months, and possibly up to 2 years, and may be fined several hundred, thousand, or (theoretically but in practice, pretty much never) several tens of thousands of dollars.
There is no way to "fix this" in the sense of something she can do which will automatically or definitely avoid jail. But if this is  her first offense, she expresses contritrion, and she offers to pay restitution--IF the matter is reported to the authorities and they charge her; if it's never reported, this is a moot issue--she is likely to get the chance to plea to a lesser offense and possibly avoid jail time.


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