Business owner not guilty of theft from client

Jury verdict was unanimous

Paulette Anglin-Lewis was found not guilty of theft by a Grand Court jury on Wednesday, after trial that began last week.

Ms. Anglin-Lewis, the sole director of Anglin-Lewis and Associates, had been charged with two counts of theft from a client of her immigration services business.

The first charge was theft of $27,675 from the client between April 3, 2013 and Dec. 15, 2014. The second charge was theft of $27,675 from the same person between April 15, 2014 and Dec. 15, 2014. The total allegedly stolen was $55,350.

Justice Marlene Carter summed up the matter on Tuesday and jurors began deliberations in the afternoon, returning Wednesday morning.

The jury heard that the client had received permanent residence but was obliged to pay an annual “right to work” fee. He had used Ms. Anglin-Lewis’s services since 2009. He said he did not give her or her company permission to use the money for any purpose other than to pay his fee. Had he known the fee for 2013 was not paid to the Immigration Department, he said he would not have given her the money for his 2014 fee.

When he received a letter from Immigration about the non-payment, he believed it was an oversight and was not concerned. He forwarded the letter to Ms. Anglin-Lewis for her to deal with. When the matter was not cleared up, he borrowed money to pay his outstanding fees.

The defendant gave evidence and said she did not steal the money. She said there had been a mistake in 2013 and, when she became aware of it in 2014, she made efforts to pay. By that time, the amount owed on this client’s behalf was $55,000 and she said she did not know that she could have paid part.

She indicated that she was overwhelmed at the time by business concerns and health issues.

The judge instructed the jury that, if they believed the defendant, she was not guilty. If they believed she might be telling the truth, she was not guilty. If they did not believe her account, they could not convict her on that basis; they had to go back and look at the prosecution’s case.

The Crown had to prove every element of the offense, the judge pointed out. Theft is the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

Ms. Anglin-Lewis had paid the money back earlier this year, but that was outside the period of the offense; whatever happened after December 2014 was not anything jurors were to look at, the judge emphasized. They were to look at what she said and did at the relevant time.

They had to consider whether she intended to permanently deprive her client of the money and whether she acted dishonestly in appropriating the money, she said. Jurors had to ask themselves if she acted dishonestly by the standards of ordinary decent people. If they answered yes, then they had to ask – Did the accused realize what she was doing was dishonest?

Speeches by attorneys in the case were not evidence, the judge pointed out, but they did raise issues jurors could consider. Crown counsel Toyin Salako reminded the jury that Ms. Anglin-Lewis had put the client’s money into a corporate account and then had used it to pay her company’s bills.

Defense attorney Alex Davies referred to attempts by Ms. Anglin-Lewis to raise capital and try to get a loan to keep her business going when she could have given up and declared bankruptcy. He suggested she was an honest woman trying to steer her business through a storm.