Firearm factor impacts CNB robbery sentence

Highest global sentence for bank and Weststar robberies is 14 years

Justice Alexander Henderson handed down sentences ranging from nine to 14 years on Tuesday after hearing submissions on behalf of five men found guilty of robbing the Cayman National Bank branch off West Bay Road on June 28 2012. 

A significant factor was the charge of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offense. 

For three of the men, the fact that they had been convicted of the Weststar Television Centre robbery was also a factor. That robbery occurred one month before the CNB robbery, but the trial took place after the CNB trial and verdicts were handed down just last week. 

The CNB robbery took one minute and 47 seconds; the amount stolen was $502,436 in U.S. and CI currency, the vast majority of which was not recovered. The bank president reported that the robbery was the largest in the history of the Cayman Islands and one-sixth of the bank’s net profit for the year. 

After hearing about sentencing precedents and guidelines, Justice Henderson concluded that 15 years was the appropriate starting point. This U.K. sentence considered a commercial robbery that was professionally planned, of high value and involving firearms. 

In the CNB robbery, although the three robbers who entered the premises carried firearms, no shots were fired. Afterward, no guns were found. The Crown would not have been able to prove that the firearms were real and therefore could only charge the defendants for imitation firearms. For sentencing purposes, the judge had to accept that the weapons were imitation. 

The fact that imitation firearms were used and the planning and execution of the robbery were somewhat less sophisticated than in the case cited convinced him that the starting point for sentencing should be 12 years. 

Factors that indicated professional planning included the timing of the robbery before cash was collected; the use of a decoy; the specific role each participant well understood; the quick carrying out of the plan; the use of a getaway car and a switch car. 

Some lack of sophistication was shown by the fact that the getaway driver allowed his car to be blocked, so the robbers had to flee on foot, dropping currency as they ran; the switch car was seized at the last moment; when currency was found with one of the robbers it still had identifying wrappers on it. 

Justice Henderson had also heard submissions on the principle of totality because it applied to the men who had been sentenced by another judge earlier in the day for the Weststar robbery. 

Justice Henderson emphasized that however his sentences were structured, the total duration of imprisonment was the factor of overarching importance. 

David Tamasa, 33, was not present at the CNB robbery but was found to be the supplier of weapons and someone who played a leading role in its planning. His conviction for the Weststar robbery had to increase the global sentence to 14 years, concurrent with the 11-year Weststar sentence imposed earlier in the day by another judge. He also received a seven-year concurrent sentence for the firearms. He had no previous convictions. 

Andre Burton, 29, played an integral role as the getaway driver. He had also been convicted as a principal in the Weststar robbery and had previous convictions, albeit not of such a serious nature. He also received 14 years, with five years concurrent for the firearms. Both are concurrent with the Weststar sentence. 

Ryan Edwards, 37, carried a gun into the bank and played a leading role, suggesting the crime to Tamasa after purporting to have inside information. Convicted also in the Weststar robbery, Edwards received a global sentence of 13 years concurrent with seven years for the firearms, five years for removing some of the money from Cayman to Jamaica, and concurrent to his Weststar five-year sentence for aiding and abetting. He is to be deported after serving his term.  

The other two men were sentenced for CNB alone. 

Rennie Cole, 33, was found to be a decoy who distracted the bank guard at the start of the robbery. On work permit, he is to be deported at the conclusion of his sentence of nine years, with a concurrent four years for the firearms.  

George Mignott, 24, carried a weapon into the bank and thus played a leading role. He received 12 years for robbery and seven years concurrent for the firearms. A defendant in the Weststar trial, he was found not guilty. 


The Law Courts Building in downtown George Town