A Cuban national applying for naturalization was found guilty of fraud on the government by offering a bribe to a civil servant.
Justice Charles Quin said the case of Paula Yates-Rivers was in many respects tragic, but he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that she was guilty.
He noted that the defendant and her Caymanian husband had been in a traffic accident in 2010. When her husband needed treatment in the U.S., Yates-Rivers applied for naturalization, so that she could go with him as she could not travel to the U.S. on her Cuban passport.
The Crown’s main witness was an administrative secretary in the Office of the Deputy Governor. Her job included receiving applications for naturalization and generating invoices so applicants could pay the prescribed fees to the treasury department.
The witness told the court that when Yates-Rivers came to her booth, she handed her a plain white envelope along with her documents and said, “This is yours.”
The secretary said she could not take it, but the defendant tried to give it to her at least three times, saying, “No, it’s yours. It’s for you.” Eventually the secretary left it and went to photocopy the documents and get the invoice.
When Yates-Rivers went to the treasury, the secretary looked in the envelope and saw the $100. When Yates-Rivers returned, the secretary put the envelope with the money in the woman’s Cuban passport and handed it back to her.
The secretary reported the incident to the deputy governor and to her immediate superior.
The next day, Yates-Rivers called her to ask her to come to her work place, saying, “I have a gift for you.” The secretary again told Yates-Rivers she could not accept it.
All of the conversations were in English and the secretary said she had no trouble understanding Yates-Rivers.
Defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi suggested that “gift” was the witness’s word, but what had been said was “present.”
Yates-Rivers, giving evidence in Spanish through an interpreter, agreed she gave the secretary an envelope with $100, but said it was for her passport and the secretary did not understand her.
She said she had called the secretary to come to her workplace “so she could see my presence … so she could see I am a hard-working individual.” Yates-Rivers told the court, “That’s how we do it in Cuba.”
Justice Quin noted that six months has passed before the matter was reported to police.
He said he found that the defendant was under no misunderstanding about what she was doing, pointing out that the envelope containing the $100 was separate from everything else that was handed in. She knew she would not get a passport at that time, so why would she pay $100 for something she did not receive, he asked.
He ordered a social inquiry report before sentencing and continued the defendant’s bail until Nov. 12.
Defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi had suggested that “gift” was the witness’s word, but what actually had been said was “present.”