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November 25, 2014
Female LIAT flight attendant guilty of money laundering

A flight attendant of Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) was yesterday, at the Serious Offences Court, slapped with a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to two money laundering charges.

Sheritha Newton, 30, a Dominican residing in Antigua and Barbuda, pleaded guilty to bringing into St Vincent and the Grenadines, criminal{{more}} property, specifically, EC$27,000 and Euro 25, under section 123 (1) (E) of the Proceeds of Crime Act, number 38 of 2013.

She also pleaded guilty to having in her possession at Villa, criminal property of EC$27,000 and Euro 25, under section 125 (1) (C) of the Proceeds of Crime Act, number 38 of 2013.

Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias ordered that Newton pay a fine of $5,000 on each charge forthwith.

According to the facts read out in court, on November 19, Newton worked the 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. shift, which ended in Antigua and Barbuda. Newton then boarded a flight from Antigua and Barbuda to St Vincent and the Grenadines and arrived at about 4 p.m., clad in her LIAT uniform.

On arrival, she cleared customs and took a taxi to the Beachcombers Hotel in Villa.

On the customs form, she indicated that she had nothing to declare.

According to the Customs (control management) Act, Cap 422 of the revised laws, any person in possession of $10,000 or the foreign equivalent of that sum, must declare it.

At about 6 p.m. that same day, acting on information, members of the Narcotics Division (Drug Squad) went to the hotel to execute a search warrant.

The court heard that Newton told them she had EC$12,000 in her possession. After handing over the bag the money was in, the officers counted in and it amounted to the EC$27,000.

The money was in two separate bundles.

One of those bundles amounted to EC$12,300 and the other EC$14,800, along with the Euro 25.

Newton was then transported to the Drug Squad base, following which, the matter was handed over to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

In a volunteered statement, Newton told police that a man in Antigua gave her the money to bring for someone here. She further stated that she had been bringing money here since February 2013 and was paid $1,000 every time.

In mitigation, Newton’s lawyer Israel Bruce told the court that his client is the mother of a nine-year-old child and that she cooperated fully with state authorities.

“She did not create any difficulty whatsoever. She is of good character and unfortunately found herself in this difficult situation,” Bruce stated.

Bruce said his client was very remorseful for her actions and asked the court to have her leave the country as a further means of punishment.

However, the magistrate said she was not dealing with an immigration matter and no documents were before here in relation to that.

Following the sentencing, Newton exited the courthouse with a jacket over her head, hiding her face from media workers as she entered the police transport.

The monies were forfeited to the Confiscated Assets Fund.

Up until press time last night, the fines had not been paid. (KW)