From the Courts
February 23, 2018
More charges laid against alleged Poor Relief scammers

Alleged poor relief scammers have been laden with more charges, the number now approaching 40.

On February 12, Learie Johnson and Derville Thomas were first charged with multiple fraud, deception and conspiracy charges against the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the number of charges between the two being more than 20.

Further charges were distributed to them this Monday at the Serious Offences Court, with Johnson chalking up 10 more charges of fraud, namely that he did make and use false instruments with the intention of inducing the Government to accept them as genuine and by so doing, commit an act so as to prejudice the Government.

Another six charges of fraud were added into the mix for Thomas, wherein he made and used false instruments in the name of Victoria Baptiste, Rudolph Williams and Leonora Baptiste, with the intention of inducing Learie Johnson of Lowmans Windward to accept them as genuine, and by so doing commit an act to prejudice the Government.

Both were also charged that they stole $725, the property of the Government of SVG. All offences are said to have taken place on February 7 at Owia, and the two now have a total of 39 charges between them.

Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche rose to ask that bail be denied for the two, saying that the Chief Magistrate would “appreciate that we did bring fruits, when we asked for a little time.”

He stated that there are “other months and other areas” in St Vincent where investigations must be conducted. Therefore, he asked that the investigating officer be given more time to conduct the investigation properly.

Grant Connell and Israel Bruce, attorneys for Johnson and Thomas respectively, strenuously objected to the further denial of freedom to the defendants.

Connell and Israel noted that the date of the new charges were all the same as the date of the previous charges brought against them when they were first charged.

He said that it was a “fly in the face of justice” to be “privy to information” and hold back charges to justify keeping the defendants in custody while the investigations are being carried out.

The attorney said that the court “can’t put him (Johnson) in jail until more fruits come out of the basket” and deprive them of their constitutional right to freedom.

Bruce saying “It must be crystal clear to this court..the information that was used to bring these additional charges were with the Crown when the gentlemen were first brought before this honourable court.

“The defendants should not be made to languish at Her Majesty’s Prison because the investigating officer wants to operate on a piecemeal,” Bruce exclaimed.

Further, he asked that the defendants not be made to sit in prison and wait while ‘babysteps’ are being taken with the investigation.

The prosecutor had objections to these words and stood to defend the investigating process. He said it was not founded to say that they were “holding back charges”. “The very nature of these investigations, you have to take your time and do what you’re doing properly.”

He concluded by saying forcefully, “so to say that we’re piecemealing, no we’re not piecemealing, we’re investigating properly.”

After the three had spoken, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias decided to remand the defendants for another week, until February 26, when bail would be revisited.

The prosecutor is confident that further charges will be placed against the two, come next Monday.(KR)