Elderly theft case: Signature not genuine, expert says

Forensic document examiner Frank Norwich told jurors in the trial of Michelle Bouchard Thursday that a signature he was asked to examine was not genuine.

His evidence related to one of 26 counts of dishonesty against Bouchard, 54, who has pleaded not guilty to all of them. One of the charges is forgery – that on or before June 13, 2012, she forged a document, namely a Kirk Freeport credit card authorization form, purporting to be written and signed by James B. Handford.

Mr. Handford, now 87 and living in his native Australia, is the man in whose condominium Bouchard resided for a period that included 2010 to 2012.

Fifteen charges of theft during that time allege that she stole a total of CI$1.59 million and US$805,806.25. Bouchard also faces three charges of transferring criminal property and six charges of attempting to transfer criminal property.

Mr. Norwich’s evidence was only about the forgery charge.

He said he compared four known specimens of Mr. Handford’s signature with the questioned signature. His purpose was to determine if the questioned signature was genuine. The process was a simple one of side-by-side comparison, he explained – each letter or even a piece of a letter.

Mr. Norwich said there were a number of “patently observable dissimilarities” between the questioned and the known signatures. He said it was his opinion that they were the result of someone attempting to make the signature look like the known signature.

Mr. Norwich said the questioned signature was “a pretty fair simulation” but, he added, “the questioned signature is not Mr. Handford’s signature.”

Questioned by defense counsel Peter Carter, Mr. Norwich said it would have taken him two to three hours to make his observations and two to three hours to transcribe his report. His report had not been peer-reviewed.

Mr. Carter asked if signatures could be affected by such circumstances as being written under the influence of alcohol and whether medication could make a difference. Mr. Norwich agreed.

The attorney asked if the onset of senility could make a difference. “I wouldn’t preclude that possibility,” the witness replied.

Signatures that were known to be Mr. Handford’s came from documents signed around October 2012.