An immigration officer charged with conspiracy to commit fraud on the government told jurors Friday that he did send phone messages about money to another defendant, but the messages were about a commission on rental agreements.
He explained that a friend of his had a place to rent by the day, week or month. If he referred a person who stayed a month, he would get a 10 percent commission. With the rent at $500, this amounted to $50, he said. All of his text conversations with a civilian defendant were about rental arrangements, he told the court.
He is one of five immigration officers charged, along with two civilians, with conspiring with each other and/or with others to commit fraud on the government by arranging for the payment of rewards to public officers as consideration for providing assistance to candidates to pass an English language test. The candidates were people for whom applications had been made for a work permit. They were required to pass a language test because they came from a country where the primary language was not English. The alleged offenses were said to have been committed between August 2015 and January 2017.
The five officers are further charged with failing to report the solicitation of an advantage or reward.
Two officers gave evidence earlier last week, telling the court that their text messages were related to payment of money in a “partners” scheme, described by one of the defendants as a process in which all the participants would pay a sum of money every month and then one would get the payout.
The officer giving evidence when court adjourned on Friday was being cross-examined by Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran. Mr. Moran asked if this defendant thought there was anything illegal about what he was doing. The defendant said he thought so, because he was a government employee working with immigration: “Maybe they have an issue with it.”
He was also asked why he would need a passenger’s name in advance of their arrival. He said it was so that his “rental friend” would do a contract.
He was asked why the civilian defendant would need to tell him that a person was arriving through Jamaica. The officer said he could not recall, pointing out that the message was from 2015. Earlier, when questioned by other defense attorneys, he noted that messages were in Spanish and some had been changed by “auto-correct.” He also explained that he used “street Spanish.”
A Crown witness confirmed during the presentation of the case for the prosecution that this officer did not have sufficient rank to conduct the English language test.
In giving his evidence, the officer agreed that, if someone had approached him for assistance with the test, he could not assist because he did not have that authority. He said he found it strange that some people who had failed the test were allowed to re-sit it and some were not.
The first defendant to give evidence was a male officer. He was asked why another defendant would have texted asking him to approach an officer on her behalf. He replied that there was always “some bickering” between females in the office.
He was asked what was meant when the same officer messaged him that she would have “a thing” for him. He said it was the “partner scheme” payment. The female officer was the banker and the one he paid the money to. When it was his turn to get “the draw,” he was off island and that was why she messaged him that when he came back she would have “the thing” for him.
He said there was talk in the office about certain people giving help with the English language test and he seemed to have been the target. He said he sent messages falsely implicating another officer because “I was trying to clear my name.”
The second defendant to give evidence was the female officer who agreed that she acted as banker for the partners scheme. She said she did not use the word “partner” when paying participants: “I say, ‘Come for the thing.’”
For legal reasons, the Compass is not naming the defendants in this case.