Man sentenced for attempted sale

Delbert Hyland represented himself as American owner’s assistant

American national Delbert Hyland has been sentenced to two years eight months imprisonment for attempting to obtain property by deception, the property being $275,000 that he was asking for a West Bay Road condominium he did not own. 

The deception occurred when Hyland, 66, represented to Cayman real estate agent Mabel McMillan that he was authorised to act on behalf of the owner or the owner’s estate when he was not so authorised. 

Hyland pleaded guilty to that charge and a charge of uttering a false document, a multiple listing agreement for the condo. 

Justice Alexander Henderson passed sentence on 18 November. 

In considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances put forward by attorneys, the judge said, “I also take into account the economic position of the Cayman Islands, which depends for its continuing success upon a degree of trust internationally in the legitimacy of our systems here, including our system for the buying and selling of real estate.” 

Senior Crown Counsel John Masters set out the background to the offences, explaining that on 22 December, 2010, Ms McMillan, an agent with RE/MAX, received a client referral from an agent with RE/MAX Alliance Group of Bradenton, Florida. The referral disclosed Hyland as the contact person for Donald Cosby, the owner of the property. 

Ms McMillan procured the necessary documentation to list the property and sent a listing agreement to Mr. Tilton on 10 January, receiving an email copy back four days later, followed up with the mailing if the original. 

She conducted a search, which revealed that Mr. Cosby was the legal owner and sole proprietor of the property. On 1 February, she received an email advising that Hyland was Mr. Cosby’s administrative assistant. 

Shortly thereafter, she began receiving email correspondence from Hyland inquiring about the progress of the listing, Mr. Masters said. During her communication with him, Ms McMillan informed him that she could not disclose any information about the listing to him as he was not on the register; she further advised that she had not received any instructions from Mr. Cosby, the owner. 

On 3 March, Ms McMillan requested the Florida agent to confirm whether Hyland had the authority to access information about the listing. He responded by asking her to send him the listing information so that he could then pass it on to Hyland. 

Then, sometime after 22 March, Ms McMillan received a phone call from a woman who said she was the housekeeper for Mr. Cosby’s Cayman property. The woman said Mr. Cosby had passed away. She also provided details of Mr. Cosby’s attorney in the United States. 

During a subsequent communication with Hyland, Ms McMillan told him she was confused to learn Mr. Cosby had died. She said Hyland denied this and on 31 March sent her an email saying her information was incorrect. Ms McMillan contacted the US attorney, who confirmed that Mr. Cosby had indeed passed away on 22 March. 

Meanwhile, Hyland continued to maintain that he had been Mr. Cosby’s personal assistant for some five years. He also made a request to severely reduce the price of the property from US$425,000 to US$275,000. 

Ms McMillan advised that she could not reduce the price without speaking to Mr. Cosby or viewing a power of attorney issued on his behalf, along with some means of identifying himself and Mr. Cosby. 

On 8 April, she said, Hyland produced a power of attorney by email along with a copy of Mr. Cosby’s passport and a photo of himself as proof of identification. 

On 13 April, after consulting with her compliance officer, Ms McMillan reported the matter to the Financial Crimes Unit. 

She subsequently led Hyland to believe there was a buyer and, in order for a closing to effectively occur, Hyland would need to be present in Cayman at the closing and be in possession of the original power of attorney.  

He advised he would be present and also sent wire instructions for bank accounts for the money from the sale to be disbursed. He appeared at the RE/MAX office in Seven Mile Shops at 3.45pm on 31 May to carry out the closing of the sale.  

At the conclusion of the meeting, Hyland was arrested by officers of the Financial Crimes Unit, Mr. Masters summarised. 

Justice Henderson asked about the referral procedure. Mr. Masters said the Florida agent was a go-between and the referral was a preliminary stage – “It was a listing to start things off.” The due diligence process [of knowing one’s customer] was done in Cayman, he indicated. 

Hyland, who was represented by attorney Ben Tonner, also faced charges relating to the false power of attorney. Later, when Hyland pleaded guilty to two charges, other charges were not proceeded with. 

Mr. Tonner said Hyland’s attempt involved just one transaction and there was no actual loss, so nobody needed to be compensated because the sale was prevented. The attorney said Hyland had family and a girlfriend in the US and would not have their support while in prison here. 

In his sentencing remarks, Justice Henderson said the maximum sentence for uttering a false document is three years and for attempting to obtain by deception, 10 years.  

In this case, the most aggravating feature was the fraud took place over several months and involved significant planning. He said Hyland’s age was a mitigating factor, although not a large one. 

He considered four years to be an appropriate starting point for the deception offence and deducted one-third for the guilty plea. He imposed 18 months for the false document, but made it concurrent because all the events were part of one continuing transaction. 

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