2 more charged in ‘English test’ fraud

Criminal charges filed against a dozen people this week were related to a scheme to cheat the Immigration Department’s English language test for work permit holders, according to the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission.

A sixth Cayman Islands Immigration Department employee and another resident worker from the Dominican Republic were charged Thursday with fraud in connection with the ongoing corruption investigation.

A total of 12 people are due to come before the court next month to answer the fraud and corruption allegations. A 13th person who was arrested last year, a 39-year-old immigration employee, has been released without charge.

According to a statement released Thursday by the Anti-Corruption Commission: “The charges relate to the provision of assistance to pass the English test and, in some cases, arranging the payment of a reward for the provision of such assistance.”

Six serving immigration personnel have been placed on required leave – suspension with pay – following their arrests last year in connection with the probe.

The entire matter is due to come before the court on April 10.

The English tests are a requirement in obtaining a work permit in the Cayman Islands for anyone who does not speak English as their first language. The tests are given to demonstrate that the job applicant has a basic understanding of the language.

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said earlier this year that the Immigration Department administers between 48 and 64 English language tests each week and that demand for the test has been increasing as the number of work permits held in Cayman has risen to more than 25,000.

The six immigration employees charged in the investigation are all Caymanian. However, the other six suspects are originally from Honduras or the Dominican Republic, both majority Spanish-speaking countries.

The latest charges in the case have been filed against 57-year-old Immigration Department staffer Sherry Lee McLaughlin. Ms. McLaughlin faces three counts of conspiracy to commit breach of trust and one count of failing to report the solicitation of an advantage, both offenses alleged under the Anti-Corruption Law.

Also charged was Katerine Montero Paniagua, 27, from George Town who faces two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud on the government.

Ten other individuals, including five suspended immigration staff members, were charged earlier this week in the case.

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