A man who pleaded guilty to theft from a tourist was sentenced on Thursday to six months imprisonment after Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said such crimes could affect Cayman’s reputation as a first-class tourist destination.
Stephen Lamont, 21, pleaded guilty to theft of items from a rental car at Spotts Beach on Dec. 31, 2018.
Crown counsel Kerri-Ann Gillies listed those items as including two mobile phones, sunglasses, cash and the credit card. She said the owner of the credit card went to the beach with family members, leaving personal property in the car. When they returned to the vehicle, they saw that a window had been damaged and the property was missing. The matter was reported to police and the complainant learned from his bank that the credit card had been used four times, three times successfully.
Mr. Lamont also pleaded guilty to obtaining property by deception – using the card without permission to obtain US$25 worth of fuel at a gas station, obtaining items valued at US$113 from one retail store and US$200 from another. He attempted to obtain items valued at $365 from a third store, but that transaction did not go through. All of these offenses occurred on Dec. 31.
Ms. Gillies said CCTV footage showed the defendant making purchases at one of the stores with the stolen credit card. Other CCTV footage showed the car he had traveled in being driven from Shamrock Road to the gas station. Mr. Lamont was apprehended on Jan. 3 and interviewed. He eventually admitted stealing the items and using the credit card. He told police he had had “a rough Christmas” and had not been able to buy anything for his fiancee.
Defense attorney John Furniss said the facts as given were not disputed. However, he told the court, his client was concerned because he alleged that it was his brother-in-law who had stolen the items from the tourist’s vehicle. Mr. Lamont had been arrested, his fiancee had been arrested, but not the brother-in-law. He had no information as to whether that individual had been arrested or even interviewed.
Mr. Furniss urged the court to say that Mr. Lamont had played a lesser role in the theft. He had driven the other man from the scene and had used the credit card, but it was the other man who instigated the offense and took possession of the other stolen property. Items obtained with the credit card had been recovered when police searched the premises where Mr. Lamont was arrested.
His fiancée has been charged with handling stolen property, Mr. Furniss indicated. She had been willing to pay compensation on Mr. Lamont’s behalf, but she had a low-paying job and was not in a realistic position to make any payment at this time.
The defendant was described as a Jamaican national who had been on work permit as a landscaper, but his permit had been canceled.
The magistrate asked what the total loss was to the complainant, calculating the amount to equal just over CI$2,100.
She said thefts from tourists had become more prevalent in these islands, so sentences had to deter other would-be offenders because of the impact on the tourist industry and the economy in general. The starting point had to be 12 months, she agreed.
The magistrate accepted that Mr. Lamont had played a lesser role in the theft and he had no previous convictions. On this basis, she reduced 12 months to nine months, then gave him a one-third discount for his guilty pleas, which she said was the strongest argument in his favor. For obtaining by deception and the attempt, she imposed concurrent sentences.
She pointed out that there were many people in the world who suffered financial hardship and struggled to put food on the table, but they did not resort to crime. Buying gifts was a want, not a need, she said and did not attract any discount.
The magistrate did not order compensation. She said this might cause financial hardship to the holder of the credit card, but it was clear Mr. Lamont had no means to pay. His fiancee had been charged, but remained innocent while her matter was still before the court, so it was inappropriate to order her to pay compensation.
She also noted that she had not been asked to make any recommendation for deportation, so the defendant’s immigration status was a matter for him to deal with.
Ms. Gillies advised that a charge of damage to the rental car was not being proceeded with against Mr. Lamont, given his denial of that offense but guilty pleas to the others.