MLA takes stand in Catron trial

MLA Winston Connolly was among four witnesses who gave evidence Monday in the trial of Sandra Catron, charged with eight counts of uttering a false document.

During the opening on Friday, Crown counsel Candia James said Catron is accused of submitting false certificates to the Cayman Islands government for completion of an online paralegal course she was administering through her company Micro Matrix.

In November 2011, then-Premier McKeeva Bush contracted Catron to provide paralegal training to Caymanians. Sponsorships for the paralegal course, paid to Catron, came from the Nation Building Fund.

In June 2012, the Office of the Premier requested that Catron provide copies of certificates of course completion so that there would be some documentation of how the money was being spent. Catron explained in an email that the course did not end until the following month, but she provided certificates of completion to the government dated Aug. 1.

Later that year, the court heard, Judy Powery, who worked in the Office of the Premier, received a phone call from one of the paralegal course students, prompting further inquiry into the matter, according to the prosecution. It was discovered that several students did not complete the course, even though Ms. Catron had submitted certificates of completion for those students to the government.

In May 2013, when Mr. Connolly was a councilor for the Ministry of Education, he was asked by Education Minister Tara Rivers to conduct a review of scholarships given through the Nation Building Fund, Mr. Connolly said. During this review, Mr. Connolly said, he examined a file containing documents relating to Catron’s contract with the government and thought it necessary to look into that matter further.

Mr. Connolly testified that he was not asked to review the file pertaining to Catron in particular, but that the review was “just a general check” of the scholarships.

On Sept. 12, 2013, Mr. Connolly made a report to the Financial Crime Unit, and on Dec. 12, 2013, officers searched Catron’s home, recovering two large sheets of unused certificate paper, investigating officer Detective Constable Paul Ennis testified Monday. Later that December day, police interviewed Catron under caution.

Police interviewed Catron again under caution on April 30, 2014. She was formally charged on May 27, 2014.

On Monday, Mr. Ennis and the Crown counsel read transcripts of the two interviews conducted with Catron.

During the first interview, Catron said “services had been rendered” in the form of registering students for the course and providing textbooks and other materials.

“If a person doesn’t do the course, that’s not really my concern,” Catron said during the first interview, adding that she went out of her way to follow up with students and accommodate them if they needed more time to complete the course.

During the interview in April, she said, “If you register at ICCI or UCCI, you need to pay. They don’t care if you never attend a course.”

During the first interview with detectives, she said that certificates were printed and held until an individual passed the course and that she provided the certificates to the Office of the Premier because the office asked her to provide them.

Mr. Ennis said in testimony that during the first interview, the purpose of providing the certificates “was to show that you lived up to your end of the bargain.”

Two people who registered for the paralegal course also testified Monday.  The trial continues Tuesday.