Ingrid Scott, co-owner of Sea 2 Sky Travel Agency, was found not guilty on all 29 charges of obtaining property by deception in dealing with customers. The jury returned unanimous verdicts late Tuesday.
Scott, now 44, admitted in giving evidence that she did not always spend a customer’s money to purchase that specific customer’s travel tickets. In some in
stances she would purchase tickets for urgent travel first and then purchase other tickets closer to the customer’s travel dates.
She said she did this because of cash flow problems that arose because she had given other customers tickets on credit.
The case for the prosecution, presented by Crown counsel Toyin Salako, was that Scott knew the business was in a poor financial state, primarily because of the flawed credit system she was running. It was alleged that Scott accepted cash for flight tickets while she knew or was reckless at the time as to whether the tickets could be paid for and issued by the agency.
Ms. Salako said Scott was reckless because she knew full well that there was a risk that she would not issue the tickets.
Defense attorney Prathna Bodden submitted that Scott was not dishonest because she intended at the time of the transaction for the tickets to be issued before the flight dates.
In his summing up to the jury, Justice Richard Williams defined the offense. The Penal Code states: A person who, by any deception, dishonestly obtains property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it commits an offense.
Ms. Bodden suggested that Scott was part of the Cayman society that is kind and supportive. She “very naively gave credit in the real hope that it would be paid back, and many times it would be. But unfortunately, often it wouldn’t,” Ms. Bodden observed.
She described the situation as “bad management, where customers have suffered” but not dishonesty. “You might feel it’s a civil claim against the business,” she commented to the jury.
Both Scott and her business partner took out loans to keep the business going. Scott even mortgaged her house and subsequently lost it. The defense position was that money owed to the company would have solved their problems if it had been paid back.
Scott was the only person who could issue tickets through the International Air Transport Association license.
The travel agency has since closed down.
Justice Williams summarized the defense position as: Scott may have been disorganized and the procedures put in place inefficient, but this did not amount to dishonesty as the intention was always to provide customers with their tickets.
All charges against Scott were similarly worded: that on various dates throughout 2012 she dishonestly obtained a specified amount for money from a named customer “by falsely representing that the documents provided in exchange for the cash represented a valid ticket for travel.”
The documents provided typically included an itinerary. The amounts obtained varied between $242 and $2,730. In some cases, the customer arrived at the airport in Cayman only to discover there was no ticket at the airline counter. In other cases, the customer traveled to his/her destination but then discovered there was no return ticket.
After the prosecution closed its case, Justice Williams indicated he would direct a not guilty verdict on nine of the 29 counts. Before jurors began deliberations, he instructed them that the not guilty direction did not mean that they could infer guilt on the other counts.