Woman devises elaborate scheme to con ‘friend’ out of thousands
by Katherine Renton
A woman who worked as a housekeeper abroad returned home with only US$100 in her purse after her deceiving ‘friend’ bled her dry over the course of a few months.
In order to extract EC$24,669.55 from her friend, Chanesta Brazel weaved a web of lies using the names of a practicing gynaecologist and a lawyer; managing fake social media accounts; dragging the victim’s ex-boyfriend into the mix with claims of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and sending fake medication (vitamins) to the victim.
When the mask came off and Brazel was faced with the enormity of the evidence against her, she attempted to destroy evidence by flushing some money transfer receipts at the police station.
The court had a strong message to send after hearing all the facts, and last week Wednesday, June 8, Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne imprisoned the first time offender for one year and five months out of the two years maximum allowed in law.
Brazel’s devious plans were executed between December 22, 2021, and May 29, 2022.
According to police investigations, the 49 year old victim of Lowmans Hill knows Brazel through her ex-boyfriend who is Brazel’s relative. They were good friends.
On December 22, 2021, the victim left to go to the United States of America (USA) on vacation and during this time she worked as a housekeeper.
While in America she was still in communication with Brazel via Whatsapp and telephone.
The first step that Brazel took in her deception was having the victim believe that her (the victim’s) ex-boyfriend had tested positive for various types of STDs.
Having convinced her of this, Brazel then assured the victim that she would ask a gynaecologist (who she named), who was a personal friend, to assist with private treatment. Brazel also told the victim that she would give her phone number to the said gynaecologist.
After this discussion the victim received a message from an unknown number, being the purported gynaecologist that Brazel mentioned. However, this gynaecologist was really Brazel posing as a doctor. The gynaecologist/Brazel told the victim that her ex-boyfriend visited the doctor’s office and said that she (the victim) had given him STDs and that he was going to file a case against her.
Having learnt this, the victim sought advice from her ‘friend’ Brazel, who told her that she knows someone who can “throw out” the case but she would need EC$200 for this.
Believing her friend, the victim sent this sum via Western Union.
In addition, every month from that point, Brazel caused the victim to send her EC$4,000 for medication to treat her ‘STDs’.
Four such payments were made.
However, Brazel was not finished with the victim. Using her persona as a gynaecologist, the deceiver informed the victim that her ex-boyfriend had made good on his word that he would take her to court.
The fake doctor also said that the victim would need to retain a lawyer for both of them.
The unsuspecting woman then took this information to her ‘friend’ Brazel, and Brazel was ready with the offer to engage a lawyer (she named a specific one) on her behalf. However, Brazel said this lawyer would cost EC$2500, and requested that this sum be sent via Western Union.
The deception continued when Brazel told the victim she needed to send EC$2000 because she (the victim) had been fined by the court. Her made-up reason on this occasion was that the victim had lost the first of three court hearings.
With the threat of the law at her door, the victim did not hesitate to comply.
So that she would not be caught, Brazel falsely told her victim that the court had ordered her to not come within 100 yards of the gynaecologist’s office and to have no contact with the ex-boyfriend.
When she wasn’t sending money via Western Union, the victim was asking for help from family and friends on St Vincent.
There came a time when the Lowmans Hill woman became suspicious and decided to return home. On April 4, 2022, she visited the office of the named gynaecologist to seek information and everything unravelled.
A report was made to the police and Corporal 296 Davis took on the case. He invited Brazel into the police station and during an interview the Sion Hill resident admitted all.
Before the Serious Offences Court last week, Brazel said, “This is my very first time concerning, well dealing with anything like this, even being in court and I am pleading upon the mercies of the court and I’m very sorry for what I did, I know it’s not right but I have learned from my mistakes and I promise to be a much better person.”
She said she apologized to the victim and she will continue to apologize to everyone she hurt in the process.
It was then the turn of the Prosecutor, Station Sergeant, Renrick Cato to speak and he pointed out that none of the money had been recovered.
Cato also disclosed that there were many receipts from Western Union in the possession of the police, and the defendant had taken three of these, asked to use the wash room and flushed them. These were however recovered.
“I was nervous and I was scared,” the defendant interjected.
The magistrate asked her what the money was used on.
She said that it was for medical issues and that she has papers to show this.
The prosecutor continued that Brazel had used the names of real persons.
The magistrate agreed that she brought the names of reputable persons into disrepute, also telling the defendant, “You have brought the whole justice system into disrepute with your falsehoods.”
The police officer pointed out that the offence was well planned in that an order was made to stay away from persons who could incriminate Brazel.
“..100 yards away. So the victim actually breached that order that was made by her,” the prosecutor said.
The officer concluded that despite the mitigating circumstances of the guilty plea and clean criminal record “…for someone to sit and plan an offence like this, and to include the names of the persons that she called in this, and to take advantage of a lady… by making all forms of excuses as to how she was to get money from her; this in my opinion deserves a custodial sentence. It’s like the defendant was getting a salary. And it’s a $4000 salary.”
The Station Sergeant also revealed that medication was sent to the victim and this could have killed her.
The defendant, however, said that it was vitamins.
Cato also noted that it is possible for the victim to sue Brazel to recover her money.
The victim was in court, and she also took the stand.
She is the mother to four children and a grandmother to three.
She unblocked and spoke with her ex-boyfriend that morning after blocking him since December, 2021 because of what was said by Brazel. She said that her ex-boyfriend cried and told her it was all a lie.
During her deception, Brazel apparently kept the exes apart by telling them things about each other through a fake Facebook account.
The victim said she felt hurt and there were times after she finished mopping that she nearly dropped down, and sometimes she couldn’t even buy food.
“I would cry to her many times,” about the unfairness, the victim said.
“I came to St Vincent with US100 dollars in my purse, all I work I work, I ain have no money to come back with,” the victim told the court.
It was also revealed that Brazel threatened to have her deported from the USA if she didn’t pay the court’s money.
Further, Brazel also made her send a video for the lawyer, in which she cried and named people. “I feel shame and embarrassed” the 49-year-old woman explained.
Even after the plot had been revealed, messages pushing the victim to send money continued flowing from Brazel.
Posing as the doctor, the defendant told the victim to send a sum of money for medication or she would go blind in one month.
The victim said that the father of her children lent her $4000 and she has not paid this back entirely.
She explained, “In all I sent $18,000 for her, and she collect $6500 from other people here, and I give her $1700 before I leave. It’s over $26,000 and I would love to get back my money from her.”
However, Brazel has only around $2000 in the bank. When asked how long it would take to repay the victim, the defendant estimated five months.
The magistrate went through a detailed analysis which took into account many of the factors that had been discussed. Based on the categories of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) guidelines, she began at a starting point of 1.2 years.
Nine months was added to this because of the aggravating factors of the crime but the guilty plea reduced the sentence by six months.
The magistrate noted, “It is most unfortunate that (the victim) suffered that financial loss and she worked extremely hard, leaving young family members here to go and try to seek better for them and no doubt, herself. Often I am sure wondering about their well-being…If she cannot eat, could they eat?”
“All these factors would have been taken into consideration. The court must send a message that actions of this nature are not to be tolerated or conceived,” the magistrate said.
This is not how a friend deals with a friend, she stated, before delivering the sentence of one year and five months incarceration.