Two women were found guilty on Wednesday of stealing US$1,000 from a person at the Owen Roberts Airport who wanted to send the money to her son in Jamaica.
Kamau Fiona Elliott-Ebanks, 20, and Meisha Yeneara Gordon, 27, were directed to return to Summary Court for sentencing on July 27 after Magistrate Grace Donalds found them guilty. Both had pleaded not guilty.
The charge arose from an incident at the airport on the evening of March 8, 2015. When the trial began in February, the complainant told the court that she had gone to the airport because she had made arrangements with another woman from her church to carry a bag to her son in Jamaica.
She did not see the woman, but she saw Gordon, who she recognized. She approached and asked if Gordon’s friend (Elliott-Ebanks) was traveling to Jamaica and would she carry a bag with medicine and toys.
Despite apparent reluctance, Elliott-Ebanks eventually agreed to carry the bag.
The complainant testified that she also had a bank envelope with US$1,000 in $20 notes and that the envelope had her son’s name and phone number on it; she was intending to send the money also. She said she pulled Gordon aside and asked her if her friend would carry the money. She said Gordon took the envelope and handed it to Elliott-Ebanks, who put it in one of the compartments of her handbag.
The defendants, who were not represented, questioned the complainant. Elliott-Ebanks asked if the woman had ever seen her before that day at the airport. “Never,” the woman replied.
The defendant then asked, “Why would you trust a stranger?”
The woman replied, “You’re a Jamaican – you’re supposed to be honest.” Her second reason was that Cayman is small and she knew Gordon.
Gordon then questioned her and suggested that the woman had given the money to Gordon but then took it back when Elliott-Ebanks was going through the security checkpoint.
“No,” the woman replied. “I gave it to you because if I don’t see her again, you are my surety.”
Also during the trial, Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson advised the court that CCTV from the airport had been requested, but it had already been taped over.
In reading out her verdict this week, the magistrate noted that the complainant’s other son had gone with her to the airport. He took a photo of Elliott-Ebanks on his cellphone and sent it to his brother in Jamaica so that the brother would be able to identify her when she came off the plane. She was wearing a pink blouse and black jeans that would be easily identified.
The son in Jamaica waited at the airport, but did not see Elliott-Ebanks disembark; he did not receive the bag or the money.
The magistrate pointed out that, despite denying that she had received the money, Elliott-Ebanks admitted that the woman had said to her words to the effect, “Watch them with the money” and “Remember the money in the bag.” In the court’s view, that statement alone would have caused any reasonable person to inquire what was meant.
Then, when the woman became aware that her son had not received the bag or the money, she contacted Gordon.
The court found it noteworthy that Gordon did not say then that the woman had taken the money back from her.
Meanwhile, Elliott-Ebanks maintained that she did not see anyone at the airport in Jamaica. Then she got threatening messages, so she cut her visit short and came back to Cayman with the bag of items. She said she did not receive money at the airport.
Gordon acknowledged that she had said she could give the complainant $1,000, but explained that she had said so only because she was upset and scared by the threats Elliott-Ebanks had received.
The magistrate said she believed the evidence of the complainant to be the truth and she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of both accused. They had taken advantage of the trust placed in them, she said.