Employee cleared in fake robbery

Main Crown witnesses were either inconsistent or untruthful, judge finds

Martha Levy, the former acting manager at Reggae Money Express, has been found not guilty of being one of the people involved in a theft that was made to look like a robbery on 15 January, 2011. 

Justice Charles Quin concluded on Tuesday that there was no case for her to answer after he heard arguments from defence attorney Clyde Allen and Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson. He agreed with Mr. Allen that the case against Ms Levy was inherently weak because one of the principal Crown witnesses had lied, while the evidence of the other principal witness had too many significant inconsistencies. 

Ms Levy and two men had been charged with theft of CI$62,667 and US$24,252 as well as conspiracy to steal from the money transfer business in Elizabethan Square. One of the men, Sanjay Burrell, who was an accounting officer with the business, enlisted the other – Joseph Lloyd Suberan – to enter the premises with an imitation gun and give the impression of carrying out a robbery, which was recorded on CCTV. The men were arrested after police recovered a phone dropped by Suberan and it was found to contain numerous communications with Burrell (Caymanian Compass, 24 January 2011). 

Burrell initially told police Ms Levy had nothing to do with the staged robbery; later, however, he said she was the one who came up with the idea. Burrell was sentenced in December 2011 to 16 months imprisonment. In March 2012, he won a reduction of sentence in the Court of Appeal after his attorney argued that he did not get credit for his willingness to give evidence against Ms Levy. (See story on page 13).  

Her trial began in June, but was adjourned until October so that telephone records could be obtained involving the Crown’s second witness – Jaime Morales. He claimed Ms Levy told him about two weeks before the incident that she and a co-worker were going to rob the place and he tried to talk her out of it. By way of background, Morales explained how they knew each other. He told the court Ms Levy had been harassing him and he did not want anything more to do with her. 

Telephone evidence, however, showed that it was Morales harassing Ms Levy, in particular during the period 13-24 January 2011. On 22 January, he tried to contact her 16 times. On 23 January, he tried to contact her 14 times, including five calls between midnight and 1am. On 24 January, he called her 25 times, including 14 calls between 1am and 3am. 

He made a statement to police implicating Ms Levy on 24 January. 

Based on the telephone evidence, Justice Quin found that Morales had lied to the court. “I agree with defence counsel that Mr. Morales’ evidence has been discredited and I find him to be an unreliable witness,” he concluded. 

In commenting on Burrell’s evidence, the judge noted there was no evidence that Ms Levy participated in the robbery at all and no evidence she knew Suberan, the robber, or anything about him. Burrell never mentioned Ms Levy when he was arrested or when he gave police a full statement. Specifically questioned in January 2011, he said “Martha had no part in it” and “She had no idea about the robbery.” 

During her trial, Burrell said Ms Levy came into the office on the day of the robbery – a Saturday, when she had off – but another co-worker said she never saw her that day. 

Also during the trial, Burrell said he told Suberan he would give Ms Levy $10,000 from the sum stolen. He subsequently said she would get $15,000 and then said $25,000. He admitted lying to police and lying to Suberan. 

Last year, 11 days before Burrell was to be sentenced, he gave a statement to police implicating Ms Levy. He said after speaking with his family and his attorney, he was told it was the best thing to do – to tell the truth that she was “in cahoots – collaboration with me”. Asked if he thought this was a way to get his sentence reduced, he replied, “Yeah, because my lawyer told me it could help.” 

Justice Quin found Burrell’s evidence to be intrinsically weak and unreliable, with too many significant inconsistencies when compared to the Crown’s other evidence, his own early comprehensive accounts to police and his own evidence in the trial. 

When reviewing the Crown’s case and considering these two witnesses, Justice Quin said, “I conclude that the prosecution evidence, taken at its highest, is such that a jury, properly directed, could not properly convict on it.” 

Sitting as judge alone without a jury, he added, “[T]here is no possibility of my being convinced to the required standard by the evidence before me, that the defendant is guilty.” 

He said he was impressed by the manner in which the officer in charge, PC Francis, had investigated and prepared the file. “PC Francis’ notes were exemplary in their detail. It is through no fault of his that the evidence … [of Burrell and Morales] was so discredited in this case.” 

He also noted that telecommunications expert Joanne Woods had impressed the court with her careful, expert evidence that ultimately exposed Morales as unreliable. 

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