ATM theft case progresses

The Venezuelan national accused of stealing some CI$48,000 through a sophisticated Automatic Teller Machine scheme may be in a position to enter pleas next week, Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats heard on Monday.

Progress is being made because a defence attorney has become involved in the matter.

Luis Eduardo Moreno Castillo so far faces one charge of theft of $2,500 from a specified account at Scotiabank on 6 July. When he first appeared in court, Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn indicated that investigations were ongoing and more charges were expected (Caymanian Compass, 17 July).

On Monday, 24 July, Mrs. Gunn advised the court that Castillo had phoned relatives in Venezuela to request money to hire an attorney, but no money had been forthcoming.

Mrs. Gunn also told the court that Castillo had repeatedly said he wished to cooperate, but refused to do so without an attorney. Therefore, officers were unable to question him.

Castillo could not get legal aid at that time because the charge of theft is not on the schedule of offences for which legal aid may be granted.

Through a court-appointed interpreter, Castillo confirmed that he wanted to collaborate but did not understand the laws or procedures of what he should do.

‘I don’t know if I will sink myself further,’ he said.

Magistrate Nova Hall assured him he would not be questioned without an attorney. She adjourned the matter until Monday, 31 July, to see if there would be any outcome from the contact with Venezuela.

This week, Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson asked the court to consider exercising its discretion in the granting of legal aid on the basis that it would be in the interests of justice to do so.

Mr. Foldats indicated that, in his capacity as Clerk of Court, he would pass Castillo’s legal aid application to a judge and recommend that it be approved, given the circumstances.

Mr. Samson told the court he had spoken with the officer in charge of the investigation and an interview was scheduled.

On that basis, he said, the Defence should be in a position to make progress in another seven days, perhaps entering pleas.

The matter was adjourned until Monday, 7 August and Castillo was remanded in custody until then.

Senior Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir appeared for the Prosecution.

As reported previously, the theft scheme involved the use of sophisticated electronic equipment by which bank customers’ ATM card information was illegally obtained and used.

The equipment included a small camera that allowed perpetrators to pick up the personal identification number each customer uses to start a transaction.

Mr. Farried Sulliman, country head for Scotiabank, issued a statement even before Castillo’s first court appearance.

He said Scotiabank was cooperating with the police investigation and he assured the public that Scotiabank had taken steps to ensure that all customers’ accounts remained safe and secure.

‘It’s important our customers understand that if they are the victims of debit card fraud, they will get their money back,’ Mr. Sulliman emphasised at the time.