Judge says there was ‘a very significant breach of trust’
Former bank employee Erick Michael Adam was sentenced last week to two and a half years imprisonment for theft of US$29,987.33 and false accounting. Justice Charles Quin also ordered Adam to reimburse Royal Bank of Canada, which has already refunded the money to the holder of the account from which them money was taken.
Adam, now 28, was found guilty after trial by jury (Caymanian Compass, 26 April). Sentencing was postponed so that a social inquiry report could be prepared.
He had always expressed a willingness to pay the money back, but told the court that was because he had made “the biggest mistake ever” by not making a copy of the drivers licence presented to him as identification by the woman who, he said, requested that a term deposit be broken and she be given the cash.
The Crown’s case was that no such woman existed and Adam forged the signature on a letter of instruction to break the deposit and release the funds. None of the bank staff recalled seeing any customer in relation to this transaction, although procedures called for customers to collect cash themselves. Adam said he stood in line for the customer, collected the money and took it to her in his office.
Further, Adam maintained that the drivers licence he saw had the woman’s maiden name, which was the name signed on the instruction letter. However, when the woman was contacted by investigators, she said she had not used her maiden name in over 20 years and had never been to Cayman. Her maiden name was on bank records because the term deposit had been made by her father in the 1980s.
Adam worked as a personal financial services representative and the account was part of his portfolio.
In the sentencing hearing, Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees pointed out that Adam was in a position of trust. She and Defence Attorney John Furniss agreed on the tariffs for employee theft, based on UK cases: for offences involving less than 17,500 pounds, the sentence would be up to 21 months. Over that amount and up to 100,000 pounds, the sentence would be two to three years. The amount stolen in this case fell in that second range.
Justice Quin said there were few mitigating factors because Adam refused to accept his guilt. Aggravating factors included the negative impact on his fellow employees and the bank itself.
“The Crown has submitted that, apart from the financial loss, the defendant’s actions have created significant tangible and intangible expenses, due to staff investigations, client follow-up, court proceedings and reputational damage. The Crown submits that the issue of reputational damage is difficult to quantify but it is critical to the bank’s overall brand and reputation,” the judge said.
In his view, the three years Adam had worked at the bank was long enough for him to have recognised the level of responsibility, integrity and correctness demanded of him and all bank employees. His employers and colleagues have been seriously tainted by the questions his criminal conduct must raise, the judge said, noting that the bank is entrusted with the hard-earned money of its individual clients.
“It has been said repeatedly that the banking industry is the cornerstone of the Cayman economy, and such acts as this one have a very damaging effect on the reputation of the bank concerned and the reputation of the Cayman Islands generally,” he pointed out.
In passing sentence, he started at three years, but considered the fact that Adam had no previous convictions for dishonesty and therefore imposed two and a half years. For false accounting, he imposed a term of 12 months, but made it run concurrently.