Gaming money forfeited

Over $19,000 in lottery case

In Summary Court last week, Magistrate Nova Hall ordered over $19,000 forfeited to the Crown after the money was found in a house where lottery tickets were being sold.

The magistrate said the forfeiture was the real sentence because several sections of the Gambling Law were woefully inadequate.

For example, of the six people charged after a police operation in July 2006, three were fined the maximum penalty for possession of lottery tickets – $10. One man who pleaded guilty to escaping from a common gaming house on the occasion of it being entered by police also received the maximum fine – $10.

The most heavily penalised was Olga Celina Cardona, 23. She pleaded guilty to using her George Town residence as a common gaming house, which attracted a fine of $300. The maximum fine is $400, but she received credit for her guilty plea, entered the day her trial was to have started.

Funds found on the premises totalled CI$18,628.39 and US$330. According to a summary of facts presented by Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban, police found money in toilets, in bedrooms and a refrigerator.

Dania Urbina, 26, pleaded guilty to receiving money connected with a public lottery while at a common gaming house. She was fined $300 for that offence, plus $10 for possession of lottery tickets and $10 for being found in a common gaming house.

A total of $479.70 was found in her purse and the magistrate ordered that it be forfeited to the Crown.

The cash forfeited added up to approximately $19,372.

The magistrate also ordered that all lottery tickets found be destroyed.

Ms Lobban said the arrests were made after a week of surveillance because of information received. During that week, various people were seen to attend the premises and purchase lottery tickets.

At 10.30 am on 16 July police officers executed a search warrant. A male answered the door. Cardona and Urbina were inside and Cardona acknowledged being the person responsible for the premises.

Officers took photographs at the house, included a list showing overseas phone numbers and an open refrigerator. A piece of paper with numbers on it was shown between two pieces of bread from the freezer. The photos would have been exhibited during the trial.

Defence Attorney John Furniss spoke for Cardona and described her as someone the court could expect not to see again. He said she apologised for her offending behaviour, including the possession of 1.188 grams of ganja found in a plastic bag in the house.

The magistrate fined her $300 for the ganja plus $75 in costs, so Cardona’s total fines and costs were $785.

Defence Attorney Keith Collins spoke for Urbina, a Honduran national employed by Cardona to look after her children. He said she had been in Cayman only two months at the time of the incident.

Urbina, whose English was limited, was assisted in court by an interpreter. Mr. Collins said she had told him that her employer would ask her to assist in the selling of lottery tickets. She felt she could not resist the request of her employer. Further, the lottery is not illegal in her country, so it did not impinge on her mind that what she did was illegal.

The money found in Urbina’s handbag had been received from her employer. Mr. Collins said Urbina kept her money for two weeks at a time before sending it to Honduras for her children. He submitted that her story rang true and the money was her legal earnings asked that the money be returned to her.

Ms Lobban said the Crown could not accept just her say-so that the money was not from or for the gambling.

Along with the forfeiture, the magistrate imposed fines. For being a person found in a common gaming house and being in possession of lottery tickets, Urbina was fined $10 on each charge. For receiving money connected to a public lottery she was fined $300.

Two men had pleaded guilty on a previous occasion, but their sentences were adjourned until after the scheduled trial. They were present and dealt with.

Kertis Saunders, 29, was fined $10 for escaping from a common gaming house.

Tony Carter, 26, was fined $10 for possession of lottery tickets and $200 for unlawful gaming. The magistrate gave him credit for his early plea.

The man who had opened the door to police had been charged on the presumption that he was in the house for the purpose of gambling.

However, Ms Lobban said, it turned out he was a relative of someone who lived in the house and was there visiting and watching TV. The Crown could not prove that he had participated in anything illegal and so offered no evidence against him. He was represented by Attorney Lloyd Samson.

The sixth person originally arrested was the owner of the premises. She did not live at the location and charges against her were withdrawn in February after further investigation and representations by her attorney, Ms Ailsa Williamson.