Elderly theft case trial gets under way

Trial began in Grand Court this week for Michelle Bouchard, who is accused of stealing money from an elderly man over a two-year period.

Michelle Bouchard
Michelle Bouchard

Lead prosecutor Simon Russell Flint, QC, told jurors on Tuesday afternoon that this case was about greed and an obsession with money. The offending alleged began in 2010 when the defendant was 50. The man from whom she is accused of stealing, James B. Handford, was 82.

Mr. Russell Flint said they met in 2007 when Mr. Handford bought a condominium on Seven Mile Beach and hired Bouchard as an interior decorator. Bouchard, a Canadian national, subsequently did not have her work permit renewed and asked if she could stay in a spare room in the condo until she got on her feet.

The relationship was one of friendship, but Mr. Handford hoped they would take their relationship to the next level. At one point, he asked her if she wanted to get engaged.

Mr. Russell Flint said the relationship did not become intimate, but Bouchard obtained by deception a four-carat diamond ring valued at US$201,235 in June, 2012. The alleged deception was that she had authority to use funds from a credit card in Mr. Handford’s name. Another charge against her is forgery of a credit card authorization form purporting to be written and signed by Mr. Handford.

Mr. Russell Flint was still explaining the case to the jury at press time. The indictment includes 13 counts of theft. One amount alleged is $639,376.23 between January 2011 and September 2012; another is US$723,905.17 between May and October 2012.

Jurors were chosen on Monday after Crown counsel Toyin Salako asked a series of questions designed to separate out anyone who might know witnesses who will be giving evidence during the trial, which is scheduled to last two to three weeks. Also separated from the jury pool were potential jurors who worked at or were closely related to anyone who worked at various businesses, or attended the Truman Bodden Law School.

Justice Paul Worsley, QC, who is presiding, told potential jurors that the trial concerned an allegation of dishonesty that involved quite a few closely typed documents; if they thought they would have difficulty reading a lot of such documents, they were told to advise the court marshal accordingly.

Approximately 42 people were stood down before the court clerk began drawing numbers to empanel a jury.

The case for the prosecution is being presented by Mr. Russell Flint, assisted by Ms. Salako.

The defendant is represented by Peter Carter, QC, who is instructed by attorney Lee Halliday-Davis.