Couple banned from court cafeteria during trial

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man and woman on trial on charges accusing them of scamming stores out of millions of dollars were banned from the courthouse cafeteria after a police officer spotted the two lifting a free meal.

"If they do that in here, then what are they doing out there on bond?" wondered Richmond Heights police Sgt. Church Duffy, taking a break Tuesday when he spotted two of his investigative targets, Joan Hall, 65, and Roger Neff, 75, both of Westlake.

"I got to watch the machine in action," Duffy said.

According to Duffy, Hall loaded a takeout lunch into a plastic bag and set it atop a newspaper rack near the checkout counter. Neff moved the lunch to the top of a trash can, where the two waited a few minutes and then left, lunch in tow.

The cafeteria manager, sheriff's deputies and the prosecutor were notified. Judge Nancy Fuerst mentioned the "irregularities" to the pair and banned them from the cafeteria during the trial. "You bring your lunch," she said.

No immediate charges were filed and defense attorneys didn't return messages left Wednesday seeking comment.

Prosecutors said Hall masterminded a scam involving revolving-door department store returns, switched sales tags and phony identities.