A Government employee has been sentenced to spend almost two years in jail for stealing over$154,000 from the government through a tyre scam.
Last Friday, March 31, Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett in his final decision as the magistrate presiding over the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court before his retirement as a pubic servant, sentenced Mitra-Ann Prescott to prison for one year and nine months.
Prescott, a 40-year-old junior clerk of Harmony Hall, was found guilty on three counts of theft after a full trial that lasted over one year.
Prescott was found guilty that between August 11, 2017 and December 29, 2017 she stole $6,500.00. She was also found guilty that between January 2, 2018 and August 18, 2018 she stole $60,400; and between January 17, 2018 and December 21, 2018 she stole $87,400, a total of $154,300.00, the property of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Prescott was able to obtain the stolen sums through a tyre purchase scam that she operated from the police headquarters.
The charges stem from the processing of fraudulent claims related to the supply of tyres for police vehicles.
In January 2023, the prosecution withdrew three corruption charges against Prescott related to the theft of the money.
The court also ruled on a no case submission that was made by the defence in January this year.
On Friday, the Senior Magistrate noted that the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence and he referred to a specific case in which a court held that “circumstantial evidence is very often the best.”
Counsel Israel Bruce represented Prescott, while Crown Counsel Rose- Ann Richardson prosecuted the matter.
During his plea mitigation on Friday, Bruce told the court that Prescott has been a public servant for 13 years and was employed as a junior clerk attached to the headquarters of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.
He also noted that she has no children and takes care of her retired mother. Bruce said while the court will follow the sentencing guidelines, he suggested it can deviate from the guidelines under varying circumstances with justification. He urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence on Prescott, but rather consider that compensation be made.
Bruce also asked the court that if it imposes a custodial sentence it should be a suspended sentence.
Counsel Richardson in her sentencing submissions, however, told the court that the matter was not one where a suspended sentence is appropriate due to the sum of money and it being stolen from the government.
She said for the court to impose a suspended sentence it would send a very ‘curious’ message to other offenders that they can take advantage of loopholes in the system and get away with it.
Richardson also contended that a suspended sentence would set a bad precedent as other similar offenders may think they can get away with a sentence that amounts to a slap on the wrist.
After hearing the submissions from both sides, Burnett adjourned the matter to 5:00 p.m for sentencing.
In assessing the seriousness of the offences, Burnett said the court took into account the breach of trust and the amount of money that was stolen.
In determining the aggravating factors of the offences, the Senior Magistrate found that there were attempts to wrongfully blame others. Mitigating of the prisoner was that she has a good character and had no previous convictions.
Prescott was sentenced to one year for theft of $87,400; seven months for theft of $60,400; and two months for theft of $6,500 to run consecutively because the offences occurred over different periods.
Defence Counsel Bruce has indicated that the prisoner intends to appeal the ruling of the court.