Offenders must pay back missing money
What was reported as an armed robbery at Reggae Money Express in January turned out to be a planned theft and this week the perpetrators were sentenced after entering guilty pleas.
Sanjay Andre Burrell, who was a trusted employee at the money transfer service, received a term of 16 months.
Joseph Lloyd Suberan, who was enlisted by Burrell to enter the business premises with an imitation gun, received 12 months.
O’Brian Emmanuel Wright, who hid the stolen money and gun afterwards, was also sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
Justice Alexander Henderson passed those sentences late Tuesday after hearing facts and mitigation earlier in the day.
He also ordered that each man repay one-third of the stolen money still missing.
The amount taken was CI$62,667 and US$24,252. Neither Burrell nor Suberan benefitted from the theft, but Wright spent some of the money. When police recovered the hidden funds, CI$23,068 was unaccounted for.
Crown Counsel Candia James presented the background to the charges and Justice Henderson summarised these points in his sentencing remarks.
He said Burrell, 22, either needed or perceived that he needed funds, so he conceived the plan and enlisted Suberan, 19.
About 5.15pm on Saturday, 15 January, Suberan knocked on the door of the business. It was known that Burrell was likely to be alone or almost alone. As it turned out, there was another employee present who was locked in the bathroom. CCTV showed Suberan apparently committing the robbery. After he left, Burrell phoned police.
Meanwhile, as Suberan ran from the scene to get into a car driven by Wright, he dropped his cell phone. A police officer picked it up. Suberan was contacted by police a few days later and he confessed.
Both Burrell and Suberan pleaded guilty to theft and possession of an imitation firearm, an air-soft pistol.
Wright, 26, is Suberan’s half-brother. It was not alleged that he knew about the theft plan in advance, but afterwards he burned the money bag and the clothes Suberan wore during the simulated robbery. He also hid the gun and money, but spent about $10,000. There was no evidence of what happened to the rest of the missing money.
Justice Henderson heard mitigation from Attorneys John Furniss, Ben Tonner and Margeta Facey-Clarke; he also read social inquiry reports about the defendants. He observed that, if Suberan had not dropped his cell phone, the plan would likely have succeeded.
Burrell was studying at UCCI and close to qualifying as an accountant; he was considered a model student, husband and father. He was an employee in a position of trust and the degree of that trust was quite significant, the judge pointed out.
Leading authorities on sentencing for employee theft note that where a person in a position of trust uses that position to defraud, he will never be able to have a similar position. In general, immediate imprisonment is inevitable, the judge said. Guidelines indicated a term of two to three years. In light of all the positive references and reports about Burrell, the judge started his sentencing consideration at two years and then gave one-third credit for the guilty plea, with 16 months the result.
Suberan was a willing participant, the judge noted. He was not in a position of trust and was therefore less culpable. He was described to the court as a very promising athlete and a positive and honest member of the community. The judge started his sentence at 18 months and then gave a one-third discount for the guilty plea.
Wright was considered to be at the same level of culpability as Suberan; he received the same starting sentence and credit for plea.
In dealing with the firearm offence, Justice Henderson pointed out that it was not used in the ordinary way to menace a victim — in this case it was more of a prop to carry out the drama, he said. For that reason he imposed sentences of three months and made them run concurrent.