Former Electricity Regulatory Authority chief used public money to buy and then sell goods to fuel his cocaine habit
Joey Ebanks was behind bars today after a judge ruled he must face jail time for scamming his employer and the Cayman Mac Store of more than $140,000.
The former Electricity Regulatory Authority chief admitted spending thousands of dollars of public money on iPads and iPhones, which he then sold to fund his cocaine habit.
Justice Charles Quin delayed sentencing Thursday but ruled that a term of imprisonment was “inevitable” and ordered that the former political candidate be remanded in custody. Prosecutors are asking for a jail term of three years, though that would likely be reduced because of his guilty plea.
At a hearing in January, Ebanks admitted 17 charges of obtaining money and property by deception, making documents without authority, and forgery during his time as managing director of the authority.
He told the Compass at the time that he was a changed man after finding God and was ready to face the consequences of his actions.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, his lawyer Ben Tonner said his client was genuinely remorseful and had instructed him not to attempt to excuse his behavior in any way.
“Mr. Ebanks states that he is a thief, a liar and a drug addict. He has pleaded guilty and he now asks the court to sentence him. That is not to say that he wants to go to prison, but he appreciates that it is time for him to take responsibility for what he has done,” Mr. Tonner said.
“This is a different Joey Ebanks to the Joey Ebanks that first appeared before the court. The sincerity of his remorse cannot be doubted,” he added.
Ebanks’s crimes were committed over a six-month period from September 2012 while he was managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, said Trevor Ward, QC, prosecuting.
The bulk of the offenses relate to buying a total of 47 iPads and 69 iPhones on the authority’s account at the Cayman Mac Store and then selling them for profit.
The bank alerted the ERA when it discovered that some of the checks used to pay off the account were signed only by Mr. Ebanks, who was not at the time an ‘authorised signatory’. As a result the checks were returned leaving the Mac Store, “significantly out of pocket”, Mr. Ward said.
Mr. Ebanks also wrote several ERA checks to himself, forging the signature of deputy director Louis Boucher on two occasions, and scammed the authority of nearly $7,000 for a trip to Edmonton, Canada, which he fraudulently claimed as an official business expense.
Some of the Apple products, still in their original packaging and identifiable by their serial numbers, were later traced by police to a secondhand dealer.
Mr. Ward said the amount stolen and the abuse of trust involved warranted a custodial sentence.
“Shortly after taking the reins at the ERA, he embarked on a persistent and sustained course of conduct ranging from making false claims for expenses, forging checks, and using ERA funds to obtain Apple products,” Mr. Ward said.
He added, “Acts of dishonesty on this scale in such an important position of trust has the potential to impact on the islands’ reputation.”
Referencing previous cases, he said a sentence of three years’ imprisonment should be the starting point. He accepted that Ebanks’s eventual guilty plea, after maintaining his innocence for more than six months, would likely entitle him to a discount on that sentence but said there were no other mitigating factors.
Mr. Tonner said his client’s crimes were at the lower end of the scale in comparison with recent high-profile cases in the Cayman Islands, including that of Patricia Glasgow, who was jailed for four years in March for the theft of US$437,300 from a trust fund for which she was a trustee.
He said Ebanks is a “proud Caymanian” with a long history of public service and is truly sorry to the court, his community and his family.