The Cash4Titles trial concluded yesterday afternoon with the jury returning unanimous verdicts of not guilty in the case of Lewis Denton Rowe and guilty in the case of Patrick Thomas Tibbetts.
The men had each been charged with two counts of assisting two key figures in the US-based Cash4Titles business to retain the benefit of the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie told Rowe, ‘The jury having returned the verdicts it has, you are acquitted and discharged.’
He then agreed with Acting Solicitor General Cheryll Richards that a report on Tibbetts’ circumstances would be helpful before the court proceeded to sentence.
Defence Attorney Simon Dickson asked that Tibbetts’ bail be extended. He noted that the defendant is Caymanian; his life and his business were here. He also needs time to put his affairs in order.
The Chief Justice extended bail until 17 February, with conditions that Tibbetts report to police three days a week, stay away from the airport and ports and be available for interview by Social Services.
The Chief Justice also thanked the five men and seven women who served on the jury since May 2004. He said it was apparent they had approached their responsibilities in a reasonable and dutiful fashion.
The jurors began their deliberations Monday morning, assembling from 10am to 4pm each day. They were allowed to go home, but were told not to go to work.
The case for the prosecution was conducted by Ms Richards, assisted by Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir.
The offences alleged were said to have taken place between December 1996 and April 2000 for Rowe; between December 1997 and April 2000 for Tibbetts. The 2000 date is when controllers took over the defendants’ companies.
Rowe had a management company that became Zephyr International. Tibbetts worked for Rowe until December 1997, when he left and subsequently formed his own management company, Everest.
They dealt with companies formed by investors in Cash4Titles and companies held by C4T founder Richard Homa as well as chief fundraiser Michael Gause.
The C4T loan business was not criminal conduct. The criminal conduct alleged was that the raising of funds for business expansion turned into a Ponzi scheme. This was explained as taking new investors’ money and using it to pay interest to earlier investors.
Homa began cooperating with US government investigators in the spring of 1999. Gause was arrested on 15 October 1999 and authorities closed C4T.
Homa, who is serving five years in a US prison camp, and Gause, serving 10 years, were also said to be using investors’ money for their personal purposes.
The Crown had to prove that Rowe and Tibbetts knew or suspected that Homa and Gause were engaged in criminal conduct. The defendants did not have to prove their innocence.
Both defendants gave evidence and called character witnesses.
Rowe was represented by Alistair Malcolm QC, instructed by Attorney Clyde Allen.
He said his financial controller prepared reports and there was no reason for him to be concerned with day-to-day matters.
Cash4Titles was an ongoing company regulated in the US and licensed by state authorities. He assumed they were doing their job properly.
He had no reason to suspect that C4T was anything other than a legitimate business. ‘At the time we were far more concerned about money coming from drug sources.’
Initially, he placed investments in C4T through Gause. In November 1996 he approached Homa about investing directly. His relationship with Gause’s company effectively ended in February 1998 and he continued with Homa.
Asked about a fax he sent to Homa asking for $3 million to go with $500,000 of new investor money in order to pay client interest, Rowe said the new investor money was his own.
Patrick Tibbetts was represented by Michael Wood QC, instructed by Mr. Dickson.
Tibbetts said he first became aware of Homa and Gause when he was working for Lewis Rowe. He later invested in C4T.
In December 1997 he left Rowe’s company to set up his own company management business. He got his licence in August 1998 and set up Everest Management. Gause and new C4T investors used another company in the interim and then transferred to Everest.
Tibbetts said his impression was that Dick Homa was busy, intelligent and honest until September 1999. Mike Gause was a nice guy, seemed honest, and ‘would give me any information I needed’.
Gause had told the court about a meeting at his Atlanta home in late 1998 or early 1999. It was attended by Homa and investment consolidators and cash flow problems were discussed. He said he phoned Tibbetts afterwards. ‘I told Patrick that we would need help to keep Dick afloat’.
Tibbetts in his evidence said that if there was such a meeting, Gause did not discuss it with him.
He also denied ever having any conversation with Gause in which Gause said that, if anyone looked at the books it would look like a Ponzi scheme.
Tibbetts said he invested money from the sale of land in Cayman Brac, his family’s money and close to $500,000 belonging to a close friend. ‘I would never have allowed family and friends to invest in a scheme I thought was a fraud,’ he said. ‘I was a victim like the rest,’ he said.
The Chief Justice, both at the beginning and end of his summing up to the jury, advised jurors that Gause would be regarded as an accomplice, so it would be dangerous to accept his evidence without corroboration.
The Chief Justice said there was no independent evidence to support what Gause had said about his conversations with Rowe. If jurors accepted what Gause said, they had to bear in mind what might be Rowe’s state of mind.
Regarding Tibbetts, the Crown had offered three witnesses as corroborating Gause’s evidence. Each of the three told the court what Tibbetts had said. The Chief Justice asked jurors to bear in mind the reliability and certainty of these witnesses.
The trial featured some 60 witnesses, including two accounting experts and investors who commented on their relationship with Rowe or Tibbetts.