Woman lied about credentials, fined

A woman who misrepresented her qualifications when applying for a job was fined a total of $3,750 in Summary Court last week.

Marlene Yvonne Blake pleaded guilty to two charges of uttering false documents – one indicating she had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Houston, Texas, and one indicating qualification as a certified public accountant in California USA.

Blake also pleaded guilty to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. The advantage she gained was the opportunity to earn US$223,254.51 in the office of certified public accountant between October 1997 and January 2001.

Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale told Blake, now 39, that the convictions and loss of her good character would be a greater punishment than she imagined. ‘Nobody wants a thief or dishonest person in their employment,’ she said.

One reason the magistrate did not impose imprisonment was the fact that the offences occurred so long ago. Another reason was lack of any evidence that the company or its clients were affected.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn said a trust company in Cayman advertised for an assistant financial controller in September 1997. The job required a qualified graduate with relevant experience.

Blake responded with a letter and list of previous positions. In her letter she said she was a certified public accountant with considerable experience and would be completing law school the following year.

She was interviewed and hired on the basis that she was a CPA. Starting salary was US$54,900 per year.

In December 2000, company directors decided to have on file the credentials of all senior staff. Blake repeatedly gave excuses as to why she could not produce her certificates. In January 2001 she did hand in two. Senior management made inquiries and concluded that both certificates were forgeries.

Blake then admitted she had misrepresented her qualifications. She signed a letter of resignation after it was made clear she had to or be dismissed, Mrs. Gunn related.

Inquiries by police showed that Blake did attend the university but never received a degree. The certificate purporting to show she was a CPA was in fact issued to a woman with a completely different name. The California Public accountancy board confirmed no certificate had been issued to Blake.

In 2002, charges were laid against Blake, but she had left the jurisdiction. Officers dealing with the case are no longer on the police force, Mrs. Gunn told the court.

Blake, a Jamaican national, came back to Cayman in 2005 and appeared in court on 30 June 2005. She was bailed until 21 July 2005, but did not attend. Her next appearance was 23 June 2008, when she surrendered herself.

Defence Attorney John Furniss said the unfortunate part of this situation was the fact that, until Blake’s superiors decided to check references for a brochure they were preparing, they were well satisfied with her work.

She received a salary increase within three months and an annual raise thereafter. At the end of 1999, she was promoted with a substantial increase.

After admitting her false documents, Blake went to the US for a while and then returned. Although charges were laid against her, she sought and obtained employment. She succeeded and her present employers think highly of her and have promoted her. Mr. Furniss handed up a letter from the employer.

The magistrate wondered if Blake would get such a glowing recommendation if the employer knew of her dishonesty. Mr. Furniss said there clearly was no fault with the work she produced.

He pointed out that Blake was off island when police went to her place of employment this summer. Her boss rang her and she returned to Cayman, appearing in court the next day.

Mrs. Gunn said she had checked with Immigration and found that Blake left the island repeatedly. Blake pleaded guilty with explanation to the charge of failing to attend court in 2005.

In passing sentence, the magistrate said was extremely bright; she had reinvented herself from an accountant to a director of human resources. But it was also beyond doubt she was extremely dishonest: she had persisted in misleading the company instead of coming clean when her credentials were requested.

Custody would be punitive, serving no deterrent or rehabilitative purpose, the magistrate continued. Since Blake proposed to leave the jurisdiction, probation or community service would not be appropriate.

It was in this context the magistrate spoke of Blake’s convictions being a stain on her character for the next seven years.

The maximum fine was $2,000 and Blake was entitled to a discount for her guilty plea. The fines were $1,000 for each of three main offences and $750 for failing to surrender.

Mr. Furniss said the fines would be paid that day.