Man gets five years for theft from client

Stolen money supported lifestyle beyond legitimate means

David Keith Self, 53, was sentenced on Monday to five years imprisonment for theft from a client of sums totalling more than $600,000. 

Self was a director and 80 per cent shareholder in Monkton Insurance Services Ltd. He was paid to provide management services for captive insurance companies with parent companies based in other jurisdictions. 

In passing sentence, Justice Alexander Henderson cited the need for a deterrent sentence in part because of Cayman’s reputation as a financial centre. He said his sentence would be eight years, but he reduced this to five years because of Self’s guilty plea and cooperation with authorities. Cooperation included the signing over of his assets to liquidators. 

Crown Counsel Michael Snape summarised the offences and defence attorney Ben Tonner spoke in mitigation on Thursday. Justice Henderson then adjourned the matter until Monday so that he could consider the various submissions. 

Background provided by the attorneys indicated that Self had worked in the insurance industry in the United States and Caribbean for the past 25 years. In 1997, he and his family relocated to Cayman, where they enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.  

In 2010, he began to experience cash flow problems. He was not able to sustain himself and his family in the manner with which they were accustomed. Rather than decrease their standard of living, he supplemented his income by stealing various amounts from one client, WARCO Insurance Company, and transferring each amount to another client’s account or to his own account. 

WARCO, Mr. Snape explained, was set up to insure a group of car dealers against damage to their vehicles. 

The thefts occurred between 12 January, 2011, and 24 January, 2012. 

In 2011, one of his clients discovered it had a shortfall in its bank account; Self was confronted about it and the money was restored. By the end of 2011, he had focused his attention on how he was going to recover from the situation he was in. He decided his only solution was to sell his business and his home in Laguna Del Mar, along with a condo in Florida. 

The property was not sold and the stolen money was not repaid by the time the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority went to Self’s office in February 2012. Police were brought into the matter and Self appeared in Summary Court in March. He never applied for bail, having admitted from the beginning that the money was misappropriated. 

Self was financially ruined and his reputation as a chartered accountant was ruined, Mr. Tonner said. 

Because his wife had been dependent on him throughout their 30-year marriage and he was no longer able to provide for her, she had left Cayman. 

In his sentencing remarks, Justice Henderson referred to other material not previously discussed in court. He said Self’s wife suffered from a disability, although he had not been told of its nature, and she received a small pension in the United Kingdom.  

He summarised other factors taken into account in breach of trust cases: the degree of trust placed in the offender, the period over which the offence occurred; and the use of the money. For the most part, the judge noted, the stolen money was used to support a lifestyle beyond Self’s legitimate means.  

Other considerations were the impact of the crime on the victim, which in this case was not known to him; the impact on the public and public confidence, which he noted was likely to be higher in Cayman than in other jurisdictions; and the impact on fellow employees and partners, a factor for which he had no information. 

Concerning the defendant himself, Justice Henderson said one could infer from Self’s cooperation that he did suffer from a degree of remorse. There was no special mitigation for him and no exceptional circumstance to affect sentencing. 

The sentencing precedents used in Cayman for breach of trust come from the UK and recommend a term of five to nine years for theft of amounts between 250,000 pounds and one million pounds. Mr. Tonner said the amounts of $717,388.70 in Canadian currency and US$125,000 were equal to 520,000 pounds combined. He accepted the sentencing range, but pointed out that Self did not contest the matter in a trial. 

He also noted that a third charge, of possessing US$675,000 in criminal property, related to the funds stolen from WARCO and therefore did not add any extra element of criminality. 

Justice Henderson referred to the recent sentencing of Robert Schultz, who received five years for theft of US$289,660 from the Chamber of commerce pension Plan (Caymanian Compass, 6 December). He said the amount was considerably less than what was stolen in Self’s case, but there was the aggravating feature of Schultz attempting to abscond. 

In light of Self’s cooperation and guilty pleas, he started at eight years and discounted that sentence to five years. Time in custody since March will count toward his sentence. 

Cayman Islands Courthouse

The court house in downtown George Town. – Photo: File
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