A former waitress who duped a Lafayette sports bar and restaurant by turning in $25 gift cards and tacking on exorbitant tips from $100 to $1,100 over a seven-month span before getting caught was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison Friday.
Hue Bui, 27, of Erath, also was ordered to spend two years under supervision once she’s released and must pay back every dollar she stole from Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar on Kaliste Saloom Road in 2012.
“I know what I did was wrong. I’m trying to change things,” Bui told U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote. Bui said she had saved up $250 to begin paying Walk-On’s the money she stole: $30,222.13.
Bui, with attorney Carol Whitehurst, then asked for probation instead of a prison term.
Foote rejected the request and admonished Bui for not owning up to her problems.
“I am concerned that you are in denial,” Foote said.
“This was not one momentary lapse,” Foote said. “This was a series of crimes you committed over a period of time.”
Foote reminded Bui and others in the courtroom that during the seven months in 2012 she stole the money she was on probation for a state identity theft conviction.
“The court feels you have already gotten a break. ... You were warned to straighten up then, yet you continued,” Foote said.
Bui pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January in a scheme that robbed Walk-On’s from February to August 2012.
Bui was indicted in November 2013 on one count of wire fraud, which charged her with using gift cards at Walk-On’s to fabricate wildly exaggerated tips of $100 to $1,100, which she would collect at the end of her shift, according to the indictment.
A federal wire fraud conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and supervised release of one to three years.
But federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a range of factors such as age and criminal history, showed Bui’s sentence should be from 12 to 18 months, Foote said.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bui would use $25 prepaid American Express, VISA and MasterCard gift cards to pay for food orders she fabricated. Then she would write in huge tips that she would collect at the end of her shift.
After the card companies would realize the amount exceeded the $25 limit, they would charge the difference back to Walk-On’s.
One example was a Aug. 18, 2012, transaction that a $25 American Express gift card paid a bill of $994.73, which was processed in Phoenix, Arizona. Walk-On’s was eventually charged the difference, according to Bui’s indictment.
An employee at the Lafayette Walk-On’s on Kaliste Saloom Road referred questions about how Bui was able to pull off the crime for months to the corporate office in Baton Rouge. A receptionist at Walk-On’s Enterprises said company President Scott Taylor was out of state at a National Restaurant Association conference and unavailable until next week.
Bui admitted in January using the scheme multiple times to steal the money.
Foote did not fine Bui for the crime and ordered that no penalties or interest be added to the restitution while Bui is serving the sentence.