An American businessman whose family has been coming to Cayman for 30 years was convicted and fined in Summary Court Wednesday, when he pleaded guilty to two charges of theft from a George Town dive shop.
Andrew Stone, 48, admitted stealing a diving regulator and BCD (buoyancy compensator device) jacket with a combined value of CI$2,000, plus another regulator valued at US$800, from Don Foster’s Dive Shop on South Church Street on Thursday, Dec. 22.
Defense attorney John Meghoo asked that a conviction not be recorded against Stone, saying his client was a businessman who traveled to various countries, so a conviction could lead to travel consequences.
Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said that for a first offense of this type, the sentence would normally be a financial penalty. Mr. Meghoo asked for costs to be imposed rather than a fine so that Stone could keep his good name.
“Think of it this way,” the magistrate said. “If a Caymanian went to the U.S. and committed this offense, would you expect him to be charged, convicted and sentenced?”
“There are no good reasons not to record a conviction,” she concluded.
The CI$1,734 fine she imposed was based on the replacement value of the stolen items, which were recovered and returned to their owners. The fine included a one-third deduction for the guilty pleas. Stone was required to pay by 2:30 p.m. so that he could leave on a flight later the same day.
Crown counsel Darlene Oko explained that Stone went to the dive shop with two other people on Thursday, Dec. 22. The following day, an employee and another man discovered that items were missing from a room where equipment is kept on a drying rack. The men complained to the manager and CCTV from the previous day was reviewed.
The defendant was seen going into the room and then leaving with the dive equipment before rejoining the group as they were making their dive preparations.
Police were called and given the name and address provided by the man seen on camera. When officers located Stone, he took them to his car to show him his dive equipment. The officers saw other equipment and asked about it. Stone said that was the first time he was seeing it and he did not know how it got into his vehicle. Arrested and interviewed, he denied stealing anything. Shown the CCTV, he said, “No comment.”
Mr. Meghoo told the court that Stone started diving in Cayman when he was 18. His parents own a condo here and family members met in Cayman for the holiday. Stone was to have left on Christmas Day. Stone admitted taking the items was a silly piece of misjudgment and that he took them without thought of the consequences.
The attorney said Stone apologized to the court, to the owners of the equipment and to Don Foster’s Dive Shop. He was very embarrassed, but hoped to return to Cayman to dive.
Ms. Oko pointed out that the defendant was a businessman. She questioned how he could not accept the impact of his thefts on a small business in the Cayman Islands, given the $3,000 value of the items he would have got away with.
The magistrate began her sentencing remarks by agreeing that the stolen goods were not of low value. The defendant asked to speak and pointed out that the items were used and he believed the reported value was grossly inflated and the actual value was negligible.
The magistrate indicated she was referring to the replacement cost, which was not a trifling amount.