Businessman sentenced for forgery

Defendant pleads guilty, must do community service

George Roberto Ebanks, doing business as George Ebanks Consultancy and Bookkeeping, was sentenced on Monday to perform 120 hours of community service for the offenses of forgery and making a false representation.

The forgery was the changing of a date on a Trade and Business License, which Ebanks submitted along with a work permit application to the Immigration Board. He submitted the documents on behalf of a client on June 22, 2016.

Ebanks first appeared in Summary Court on Nov. 22, 2016. At the time, he was charged with forgery of a judicial or official document.

At his next appearance, on Dec. 13, the Crown amended the charge to forgery of a document, leaving out the words “judicial or official.” The defendant pleaded guilty and the matter was adjourned for a social inquiry report.

As Magistrate Valdis Foldats noted this week, Cayman’s Penal Code lists various offenses of forgery, with different maximum sentences.

Forgery is the making of a false document with intent to defraud or deceive. A person who forges any document commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for three years. A person who forges any judicial or official document commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

Crown counsel Neil Kumar told the court that a work permit administrator was processing a work permit application submitted on behalf of the owner of a landscaping company. The administrator became suspicious because the Trade and Business License submitted with it showed a grant of two years, with an expiration date in 2017.

This caused the Immigration Department to contact the Department of Commerce and Investment for clarification. This department confirmed that such a license is issued for one year only and never for two years at a time.

Based on this information, the owner of the business was invited to visit the Immigration Department. He told officers that Ebanks handled all his company’s work permit and license applications. He denied knowledge of any impropriety in relation to any documents.

Mr. Kumar said the defendant was interviewed under caution in September and he admitted changing the date. His explanation was that he was trying to facilitate his client’s application.

Defense attorney Prathna Bodden said Ebanks was known for helping others and it was this wanting to help that led to the offense. The defendant had helped a lot of people in many service clubs, including those with youth leadership programs. He had no previous conviction and several excellent references.

“It was not a matter of money,” Ms. Bodden pointed out. “The only person who would have benefitted was his client.” She noted that Ebanks would have been paid for his work regardless of the outcome.

In the end, everything went well for the client, she added.

She said Ebanks had made early admissions, he never required the evidence of a handwriting expert, he entered his guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity.

The magistrate agreed in typical cases of forgery, one thinks of a person creating documents that give him some advantage; a concern for the court would be – what is the damage done when someone forges a document? In this case, there was no immediate benefit to Ebanks, whose intention was to help someone get through the system. “It was a foolish decision on your part,” he told the defendant.

There must be a conviction recorded, the magistrate continued. That itself would be devastating for a business person working with various agencies, he observed.

Sentencing options included a fine, a suspended sentence or community service. The magistrate opted for the third and imposed 120 hours community service. He imposed a concurrent sentence for making a false representation – the act of submitting the forged document.

The defendant initially faced a third charge of using an endorsement on a document which has been forged or altered. That charge was left on file in December and the magistrate dismissed it this week.

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