Staci-Ann Brown gets suspended sentence; Kimberlie Arch-Bush receives 20 months immediate imprisonment
Two young women were sentenced on Monday for thefts that started when they were senior account clerks at Scotiabank in 2009.
Staci-Ann Tonicia Brown, who pleaded guilty to theft of $3,423.60 from the account of her deceased grandmother, received a suspended sentence.
Kimberlie Joy Arch-Bush, who admitted thefts totalling $104,382.30, received sentences of imprisonment totalling 20 months.
Both defendants were 19 when the offending started.
The charges first came to court in March 2012. Crown Counsel Michael Snape explained last month how the offences were committed. Defence attorneys Graham Hampson and Prathna Bodden spoke on two following occasions to add details and insights. Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn also had social inquiry reports for both women.
She said it could not be doubted that these offences struck at the heart of the financial industry, undermining customer confidence and affecting Cayman’s international reputation.
The first offence occurred in January 2009, when the first unauthorised withdrawal was made from Brown’s grandmother’s account and the funds were placed in Brown’s account. The transaction was done by Arch-Bush.
The grandmother died in 2006, but her estate had not yet been settled. In his narration, Mr. Snape advised, “A slightly unusual feature is that this money is something she [Brown} would have been entitled to” once the executor settled the estate.
Ms Bodden told the court that on this first occasion Brown had gone to Arch-Bush and asked her to complete the transaction. Arch-Bush thought it was a legitimate transaction, but then learned that Brown had no right to the money. Once she did realise this, she borrowed money from Brown and in the beginning paid it back.
Brown was terminated by the bank in March 2009 for reasons unconnected with this offence and the two young women stopped speaking shortly thereafter.
Mr. Snape said Arch-Bush then “went on a spree” and transferred funds from a third-party account to an account of her relatives or to the account of Brown’s grandmother before transferring the money into her own account. The spree lasted until November 2010.
Ms Bodden said one theft of $5,000 was from the account of a couple whom Arch-Bush knew had left the island after being suspected of stealing money from their church. Arch-Bush thought they had stolen the money anyway and the funds were sitting in a dormant account.
In December 2010, discrepancies were noted in an account kept by a local business for clearing local drafts. Over a six-week period, there had been unauthorised debits totalling $45,953.20 and they all had Arch-Bush’s unique identification number for logging into the computer.
She was spoken to and admitted taking the money.
Three accounts were stolen from – that of the local business, the absent couple and Brown’s grandmother. Thefts from this last account totalled $53,429.10.
Concealing the thefts by moving the money into other accounts before transferring it to her own resulted in charges of money laundering, which Arch-Bush also pleaded guilty to.
All counsel agreed that immediate imprisonment is the correct sentence for breach of trust cases and both defendants were in positions of trust. The only time immediate imprisonment would not be imposed is if the amount of money is small or if there is some exceptional circumstance.
In mitigation for Brown, Mr. Hampson submitted that the amount of money stolen was not large. It had been taken to pay bills. He said his client was embarrassed and ashamed and now realised how stupid her acts were. “She does not like the stigma on her reputation,” he told the court. The executor of her grandmother’s estate had made the adjustment in the amount she eventually received.
Since leaving the bank, she had found employment at three other places. She was terminated from one job when her superiors learned about this theft case. But her present employer knew about it and still trusted her. He personally came and told the court what a conscientious employee she is.
The magistrate did not agree that $3,000 is a small amount. There are few circumstances when a bank clerk steals from a customer account that the sentence would not be imprisonment, she said. In Brown’s case, she used the term “highly unusual”, rather than exceptional.
Theft of this sum would ordinarily be met with a sentence of nine months after trial, the magistrate explained. With credit for the guilty plea and cooperation, that was reduced to five months. However, in light of the unusual circumstances and the defendant’s substantial efforts at rehabilitation, the five months could be suspended for two years, she concluded.
In the case of Arch-Bush, she denied using the money for an extravagant lifestyle but did acknowledge socialising and taking two trips abroad. She said she was supporting her family, who were in danger of losing their home; she lied to her parents and said she was obtaining a loan, Ms Bodden said.
She pointed out that Arch-Bush’s admissions meant that no co-workers had to be subjected to investigation.
The magistrate said the amounts of money stolen and the period of offending meant that the sentence for Arch-Bush would be three years after trial. Because of her guilty plea that could be reduced to two years. With a further discount for her age and the passage of time, the appropriate sentence was 20 months. For money laundering the sentence was 12 months concurrent.
Since this defendant had no assets or savings, the court did not order compensation. There was earlier discussion, however, of a Grand Court case in which the judge suggested that a civil court judge would have more power to deal with compensation claims.
In this case, the bank has replaced the stolen money.