LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Lufkin Police officers arrested a 22-year-old assistant manager at Chicken Express for state-jail felony theft Wednesday after the man's boss discovered that a bag containing more than $3,000 missing from the restaurant's safe.
Michael Anthony Maldonado, of Lufkin, is still being held in the Angelina county Jail on a state-jail felony charge of theft between $1,500 and $20,000 and a misdemeanor traffic charge. No bail has been set for the theft charge.
According to the arrest affidavit, a Lufkin Police officer responded to the Chicken Express located at 3711 South Medford Drive on Oct. 9 in regard to a theft which had already occurred. The LPD officer spoke to the restaurant's manager, who told him that her assistant manager, Maldonado, had called earlier that morning and said he was unable to come into work because someone had vandalized his car.
The manager told the officer that when she opened the restaurant that morning, nothing seemed amiss at first, the affidavit stated. The alarm was set, and there was no sign of forced entry.
However, when the manager opened the restaurant's safe, she discovered that a money bag containing $3,036 in large bills was missing, the affidavit stated. A second bag containing a lesser amount of smaller bills was still in the safe.
The manager told the LPD officer that she looked around and discovered the empty bag that had contained the larger bills in the money drawer. At that point, the manager called her district manager and the owner of the store.
While the LPD officer was at the restaurant, the manager showed him surveillance video footage from the night before. It showed where Maldonado had come inside the restaurant with Lufkin PD officers at 11:50 p.m. after he had unlocked the door and turned off the alarm.
According to the affidavit, the video shows Maldonado escorting the police officers out of the restaurant. Maldonado reappeared on the video at 12:02 a.m., and he was wearing the exact same clothes as before, except he had his hoodie over his head.
The affidavit stated that the video showed Maldonado entering the store again with his key and deactivating the alarm. After opening the money drawer, Maldonado could be seen walking to the closet that contains the restaurant's safe. The video showed that the assistant manager spent several minutes in the closet before he walked to the money drawer inside the manager's office and placed the empty bag in it.
When the LPD officer contacted Maldonado by phone, he asked the man about the situation. Maldonado said he went to the restaurant at midnight to check the fryers as well as the building in general.
In addition, Maldonado told the LPD officer that he went inside the building with the officers that night to show them he was the manager there because they had asked him why he was there so late. He also told the officer that the officers that were on the scene that night told him not to drive his vehicle away because his license is suspended.
When the LPD officer asked if the money had still been inside the safe when he checked it late that night, Maldonado said that it was. After the officer explained that all of Maldonado's activity inside the restaurant had been captured on surveillance video, he could not explain why the money was missing.
The manager told the LPD officer that the surveillance video showed that no one else had entered the restaurant in the time between when Maldonado left shortly after midnight and when the manager opened the business at 9 a.m. She said that Maldonado was a long-time employee and had been recently promoted to assistant manager.
After the manager mentioned that Maldonado was currently on probation, the LPD officer called the Angelina County Adult Probation Department. Maldonado's probation officer said she had an appointment to see Maldonado on the morning of Oct. 9, but he never showed up. When the probation officer contacted Maldonado about missing the appointment, he told her that he didn't have a ride to the probation department.
According to jail records on the Angelina County Website, Maldonado's arrest record dates back to October 2008. He has a variety of felony and misdemeanor arrests that include delivery of a controlled substance, delivery of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and public intoxication.