From the Courts
October 18, 2016
Former CBA chair lucky not to be taking seat in prison

Former Chair of the Carnival Bands Associa­tion (CBA) Hugh Ragguette was last Thursday fined EC$2,000 and given two nine-month suspended sentences after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud on September 30, 2016.{{more}}

Ragguette, 65, had originally entered a not guilty plea on April 4, 2016. However, when he reappeared before the court on September 30, his lawyer, Ronald Marks, asked that the charges be put to him again.

He was charged that on September 6, 2011 at Kingstown, he intended to defraud the United States Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados, by falsely representing himself to be H Val Prescott, a fictitious person. The Stoney Ground resident faced two additional charges for falsely representing himself to be Mavis E Johnson, another fictitious person, with intent to defraud the United States Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados on September 9, 2011 and August 9, 2013. Ragguette was also charged that on July 29, 2013 at Kingstown, he falsely represented himself to be CB Richards, also a fictitious person, with intent to defraud the United States consular officer in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Last Thursday, senior prosecutor Adolphus Delpesche told the court that for the past 30 years Ragguette has been making fictitious letters on behalf on applicants to take to the US Embassy and would charge persons between EC$200 and EC$800.

Delpesche said the Embassy became suspicious when they received a large number of applicants from the Christian Development Corporation Society that was managed by Mavis E Johnson.

However, when contacted, authorities in St Vin­cent revealed that such an institution did not exist.

Police apprehended Ragguette after an investigation was launched into the matter.

He was cautioned and interviewed by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Francis, who headed the investigations, and a written statement was recorded on October 2, 2013.

In this statement, Ragguette disclosed that in the 1970’s he was a member of the SVG Workers Union who assisted persons with their US visa applications. The former CBA head said that he travelled to the US Embassy during that time, but did not begin making documents until the head of the Union died and persons began asking him for help.

He admitted that he assisted more than 300 persons with visa applications and although he is not computer literate, he never asked anyone in the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) for assistance.

Ragguette said he could not remember the names of the persons he helped, but confessed that he used the names of many fictitious institutions and some real ones, such as the Tunnel Bar and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC).

“I simply wish to state that my wish to help was not done out of profit or financial gains; it was done to help those in need,” he told officers.

During mitigation on Thursday, Marks said that his client has been deeply involved in nation building for many years. He further stated that Ragguette started the National Youth Council and joined the CDC in 1973 as a representative of the Council and represented the CBA from 1988 until he was charged.

Marks noted that his client was also the secretary of the SVG Peace Council, which he said was part of a larger council set up in various nations with the objective of maintaining peace. The attorney argued that Ragguette has contributed to SVG and the world and is known and respected throughout the country, as he has served in culture for years. According to him, Ragguette is diabetic, hypertensive and has extremely bad eyesight and has a long overdue trip to Cuba.

Marks asked for a financial penalty and or a bond as Ragguette’s sentence and urged the court to bear in mind Ragguette’s contribution to society, his excellent record and his misguided actions with the intent to assist persons.

In closing, he pointed out that Ragguette stopped forging documents in July 29, 2013.

However, the senior prosecutor said that Ragguette’s actions could negatively affect persons going to the Embassy.

“A person’s actions has consequences, no matter who you are,” Delpesche asserted. He recommended a suspended term of imprisonment, stating that a message must be sent that persons would not get away with these crimes. He also asked that a fine be imposed along with the sentence.

Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias said although Ragguette is a nation builder she finds the offence quite worrying. “Yes, it was in an effort to assist, but to assist by deception?” she questioned.

The Chief Magistrate further stated that persons must know they would not get away with crime, adding that Ragguette did make a financial gain from the preparation of the documents and so a financial penalty should be enforced, although she is aware that the offences could also carry a term of imprisonment.

Browne-Matthias imposed a fine of EC$1,000 to be paid by November 10 for Ragguette’s September 6, 2011 charge, in default five months imprisonment. She also imposed a fine of EC$1,000 to be paid by December 16 for his September 9, 2011 charge, in default five months imprisonment.

Ragguette was also given two nine-month sentences, suspended for nine months for the charges dated August 9, 2013 and July 29, 2013. Should he offend within nine months, he will be imprisoned for nine months. (AS)