Theresa Chin, sole director of TC Fahrenheit Ltd., appeared in Summary Court on Wednesday to report on efforts to pay more than $95,000 to former employees for pension deductions she made from their salaries but never placed in any pension plan.
Ms. Chin previously entered guilty pleas on behalf of the company, which had traded as 123 Travel. She had offered to pay $250 per month, a rate that would have meant it would take more than 36 years to pay $95,927.65 to the employees, plus $13,100 in fines.
This week, defense attorney Keva Reid said Ms. Chin was offering to pay $500 per month. Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez said that amount was still not acceptable. She said she would accept $700 a month for the next three months to give Ms. Chin time to “sort herself out.” After that, the court expected no less than $1,000 per month, the magistrate said.
She referred to documents submitted to the court concerning income and expenses. Ms. Chin was earning a little over $4,000 a month. She was paying $1,700 per month for rent. The magistrate said it looked like “living above one’s means.”
She asked why Ms. Chin needed a three-bedroom home. Ms. Reid said her client’s daughter lived with her, along with the daughter’s child. Asked why Ms. Chin should be paying rent for those family members, Ms. Reid said the daughter paid utilities and other expenses.
The magistrate commented on other bills, as from “Logic, Flow, internet and cellphones” and said she did not understand the need for these.
Ms. Reid said these were old bills from when the business was still operating. [It closed in early 2015.] The magistrate said she did not understand how those things took priority over money owed to the employees. “We don’t call it theft under the Pensions Law, but that’s what it amounts to,” she pointed out.
She referred to an old Caymanian saying that she said fit this case – “People need to cut their suit according to their cloth.”
She said Ms. Chin needed to deal realistically with the situation she faced, because it could not be postponed for years. “We need to find a realistic way to pay this off,” she declared.
She set the next mention for Oct. 24. That date meant that Ms. Chin should have made three payments of $700 by then. Any single failure to pay could result in a period of imprisonment, she warned.
Thirteen employees were affected by the unlawful use of the deductions, which started in 2009. Two employees were owed more than $24,000 each.
The matter was reported to the Department of Labour and Pensions in 2015. Ms. Reid previously told the court that the money went toward business expenses and not for Ms. Chin’s personal use.