Bank employee gets community service for theft

Prison would affect woman’s health, judge says

A former bank employee who admitted
stealing $62,057.08 was sentenced on Friday to perform 240 hours of community
service and abide by conditions of probation for three years.

Lanisia Barnes entered guilty pleas
in November to 21 counts of theft and 21 counts of false accounting —
dishonestly falsifying records relating to each theft.  Defence Attorney Delroy Murray asked for
sentencing to be deferred while reports were obtained. Barnes was granted bail
meanwhile.

On Friday, Mr. Murray advised
Justice Howard Cooke that the stolen money had been paid back in full.  He said Barnes had lost her job and then, as
a result, had lost her home because she could not make the mortgage payments.

He handed up a letter from a local
doctor who indicated that Barnes has a seizure disorder only partially
controlled by medication.  Stress can
exacerbate her condition, which is akin to epilepsy, he indicated.  There are no neurologists on the Island, Mr.
Murray emphasized.

Details of the offences were set
out by Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn before Mr. Murray spoke in mitigation.
Mrs. Gunn said theft from an employer is a breach of trust and the usual
sentence is immediate imprisonment unless there are exceptional circumstances.  A first conviction for this kind of offence
has a tariff of one to four years on the basis of a not guilty plea and
repayment.

In this case, there were two types
of theft, Mrs. Gunn related. The first was for $32,375, relating to the
purchase of a motor vehicle. Barnes wrote a cheque on her personal account and
gave it to the seller. The seller then deposited it in his bank, which sent it
to Butterfield for clearing. Butterfield paid the money to the other bank, but
before the cheque could then be debited to her account, Barnes intercepted it.
The $32,375 remained in the banking system as an uncleared debt.

Mrs. Gunn said Barnes applied for a
loan to purchase the vehicle. When the loan was granted and she received the
money, she did not pay it back.

The other pairs of offences
involved amounts ranging from $500 to $9,000, Mrs. Gunn said. Barnes would
receive cheques in her personal capacity and deposit them in her personal
account, as she was entitled to do. However, in her supervisory capacity, she instructed
junior members of staff to sign blank deposit slips. She would then deposit a
cheque, but increase the amount. For example, in depositing a $600 cheque, she
would enter $2,600 on the deposit slip that was already signed.

The offences occurred between
August 2004 and September 2006. Barnes’ final position at the bank was acting
manager of operations. The lengthy period of offending and her senior position
were aggravating features. The bank had to conduct intensive investigations, so
the impact of Banes’ offending on the bank and on other employees had to be
considered also, along with the impact on the public and public confidence. She
noted that the Court of Appeal had stated in a previous case that the economy
of the Cayman Islands relies on the integrity of its financial institutions.

Justice Cooke asked if Mr. Murray
agreed that immediate imprisonment was the norm in cases like this unless there
was some exceptional circumstance. Mr. Murray said yes, adding that he hoped to
persuade the court that the exceptional circumstance did exist. He said part of
the stolen money was used for medical bills for Barnes’ son, who had been born
with a hole in his heart.

“What is the nexus between that and
her dishonesty?” the judge asked. Mr. Murray said it was her low level of
insurance coverage. He then went on to discuss Barnes’ medical condition.

The judge wondered if he was going
to accelerate the ending of Barnes’ life by sending her to prison.  After questioning the probation officer
present about community service, he handed down the sentence.

Seeking clarification, Mrs. Gunn
asked if he had found that the medical evidence in the letter was sufficient
and that it amounted to exceptional circumstance.

“Yes,” Justice Cooke replied.
“Imprisonment would have a deleterious effect on her health.  That is what tips the scale, in my view.”

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