CAL employee gets 22 months for theft

‘Naive’ cargo agent admitted stealing money from airline to give to woman in U.S.

A Cayman Airways cargo agent who admitted stealing US$46,500 from the airline was sentenced last week to 22 months’ imprisonment. 

Joseph William Byrd Jr., 28, worked as a cargo agent from March 2011 until July 2013, generating airway bills for customers who wanted to ship goods and accepting payment from them for the service. 

He should have submitted daily sales reports but failed to do so on 28 occasions between April 2012 and June 2013, the court heard. An airline investigation of late sales reporting led to an audit, which showed funds that Byrd had failed to record. 

When interviewed, he admitted stealing from Cayman Airways and sending the money to a female employee of British Airways who resided at the time in Miami, Florida. 

Defense attorney Richard Barton told the court that Byrd looked up to the woman and had developed trust in her. The woman’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and this was a factor in Byrd’s mind because his own mother was a cancer survivor. 

When the woman told him of financial difficulties she was experiencing over property in Miami, Byrd helped her out by initially giving her some of his own money and then by sending her unauthorized sums he had taken from the airline. 

Mr. Barton said the woman had promised to return the funds once the property in Miami was sold, and Byrd intended to replace the money. However, he was never reimbursed. 

Describing Byrd as having been extremely naive, Magistrate Philippa McFarlane said, in passing sentence, that she was troubled by the fact that Byrd had been lured into providing the money. She noted there was a dearth of information about what the money was used for, but she understood that Byrd did not benefit from the thefts.  

Theft from an employer almost always results in imprisonment, she noted. In this case, the sum was not small and there were no exceptional circumstances. There had been some impact on his Cayman Airways colleagues in that they were subjected to additional scrutiny after Byrd’s offenses were discovered, she said. 

The magistrate said she was minded to make an order for repayment. Mr. Barton said his client had always expressed a willingness to pay, but the level of earnings from subsequent employment did not enable him to do so. 

The magistrate gave him four years from the date he obtains employment after completing his prison sentence or serve additional time in lieu. With a full discount for his guilty plea, the sentence that would have been 33 months was reduced to 22 months. 

A charge of false accounting was not proceeded with. A charge of money laundering – removal of the stolen funds from Cayman to the U.S. via money transfers – was dealt with by way of a concurrent sentence of four months. 

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