An office cleaner who saw a chequebook on a table helped herself to three cheques, Defence Attorney Clyde Allen acknowledged in Summary Court this week.
He was speaking on behalf of Bibi Camarzaman, who pleaded guilty to theft, uttering forged/false documents and obtaining property by deception.
Mr. Allen submitted that, because of the small amount of money involved plus the defendant’s exceptional circumstances, the offences did not warrant a sentence of imprisonment.
Crown Counsel Richard Barton Jr cited the guidelines for sentencing in cases of theft by employees. Theft in the work place is regarded as a breach of trust and generally warrants a custodial sentence, he indicated.
When the amount of the theft is less than 10,000 pounds sterling, a sentence of up to 18 months is indicated, with a discount for a guilty plea, he noted.
In this case, the thefts totalled CI$1,328.
Mr. Barton explained that the complainant worked in an insurance office. On receiving her personal bank statement, she found that three cheques had been used without her permission and someone else had signed her name.
The matter was reported to the Financial Crime Unit.
Investigations revealed that a man had cashed one of the cheques. The bank teller who cashed it had requested a photo ID and he produced a Cayman driver’s licence. After receiving $750, he handed it to the defendant.
Questioned by police the man said he had been asked to cash the cheque by a co-worker, who said it was for her sister.
Camarzaman initially denied asking the man to cash a cheque and she denied signing it. She also denied working for the cleaning agency at the time the cheques went missing.
She and the man were both charged and brought to court. She subsequently admitted her offences and the charges against the man were dismissed.
Mr. Allen told the court that when Camarzaman first appeared before authorities she was confused and upset. Officers recommended she get legal advice and, after doing so, she admitted what she had done.
At the time she helped herself to the three cheques, she was under considerable stress, Mr. Allen said.
She had given birth to a baby girl and had come out of the pregnancy feeling somewhat depressed because she was not near her immediate family.
She tried to amend her work permit to allow her daughter to remain on the island, but was told she could not have her permit amended. She had to send the child to her family in Guyana.
This added to her depression. Meanwhile, her relationship with her husband began to deteriorate.
It was against this background that the offences were committed, Mr. Allen told the court. The defendant used the money to pay for food – she had been running accounts at various establishments and needed to pay them.
Now 22, she had come here from Guyana in August 2002. She has decided to return home and be with her family after her current work permit expires, Mr. Allen said.
He pointed out that the full amount had been paid back and Mr. Barton confirmed this.
In passing sentence, Magistrate Grace Donalds noted that the defendant had pleaded guilty at a relatively early stage and had made full compensation. She therefore imposed fines of $250 for each count of theft, for a total of $750. No separate penalty was imposed for the false documents of obtaining by deception.