Former ERA chief abused drugs and alcohol for 25 years
Bankrupt, half-a-million dollars in debt, and facing foreclosure on his home, former political hopeful Joey Ebanks has fallen a long way.
Details of how Mr. Ebanks’s $1,000-a-day cocaine addiction led to his financial ruin emerged in Grand Court on Tuesday as he was jailed for two years and three months for a string of theft and forgery offenses during his time as managing director of Cayman’s Electricity Regulatory Authority.
Mr. Ebanks had admitted spending thousands of dollars of public money on iPads and iPhones which he sold to fuel his drug habit. In total, he scammed his former employer and the Cayman Mac Store out of more than $140,000 between September 2012 and March last year.
Passing sentence on Tuesday, Justice Charles Quin said that Ebanks’s drug use explained his behavior but did not excuse it and an immediate custodial sentence was the only option. He sentenced him to serve a total of three years in prison for the 17 counts of obtaining money and property by deception, making documents without authority, forgery and transferring criminal property. The sentence was reduced by nine months because of his guilty plea.
No order for compensation was made, with the judge accepting that Mr. Ebanks was “bankrupt” and in no position to return the money he had stolen. A social inquiry report revealed that Mr. Ebanks had been abusing drugs and alcohol for 25 years, including during the time he was serving in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
The habit developed from a “bottle of rum a day” to a $1,000-a-day crack-cocaine addiction, which he successfully hid from his friends and colleagues, according to the report, which was summarized by Justice Quin in his ruling on Tuesday.
The court heard that Mr. Ebanks had an impressive work record, moving on from the police to hold several executive management positions, including managing the Caribbean Utilities Company and the Cayman Turtle Farm at different times. The judge said his family had been used to a good lifestyle, which was now in jeopardy.
“As a result of his cocaine habit, his house is in foreclosure and his family is in search of alternative housing. He is bankrupt, with debt of half-a-million dollars and his wife is now the sole bread winner in the family.”
The report suggested Mr. Ebanks’s remorse for his crimes was genuine, citing evidence from a reverend that he had given up drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and was a born again Christian attending church as often as three times a week.
Justice Quin said he had accepted that Mr. Ebanks’s confession was made more difficult by his public role and praised him for accepting responsibility for his actions.
“This court is impressed by what can only be described as a full and frank confession by this defendant,” he said.
The judge said that some form of drug counseling should be part of Mr. Ebanks’s rehabilitation and suggested his addiction had been the cause of his crimes.
“If he stays away from drugs, it is likely that we will never see him before this court again,” he said.
Details of Mr. Ebanks’s crimes were revealed at an earlier hearing. The bulk of the offenses relate to buying a total of 47 iPads and 69 iPhones on the Electricity Regulatory Authority’s account at the Cayman Mac Store and then selling them for profit.
Mr. Ebanks also wrote several ERA checks to himself, forging the signature of deputy director Louis Boucher on two occasions, and scammed the authority out of nearly $7,000 for a trip to Edmonton, Canada, which he fraudulently claimed as an official business expense.
He initially denied the offenses but reversed his plea earlier this year, admitting to nine counts of obtaining property by deception, two counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, three counts of making documents without authority, two counts of forgery and one count of transferring criminal property.