The owner of a water sports company was conned out of almost $2 million by a woman who claimed she was collecting legitimate fees for his applications for permanent residency and Caymanian status, a court heard this week.
Judith Douglas is charged with obtaining money by deception from US national Nathaniel Robb in a six-year-scam.
The trial, which began earlier this year but was abandoned for legal reasons, re-opened Monday in front of a new jury.
Outlining the case against Douglas, prosecutor Toyin Salako said Douglas had been introduced to Robb by a neighbour as someone who could help him with efforts to get Caymanian status.
Initially, Douglas claimed it would cost just $8,000 to get permanent residency, status and a Caymanian passport, Salako said.
But, she said, the goalposts kept changing and Douglas kept coming back with requests for new fees, which she personally collected from him in cash. By January 2016, Robb had handed over $1.91 million in cash payments directly to Douglas.
Douglas had indicated that much of that money would be refunded at the end of the process, Salako said.
Douglas also asked for copies of his passport, photographs, land transfer documents and police documents, leading him to believe she was a legitimate operator, the prosecutor said.
Robb was granted permanent residency in April 2012, further bolstering his confidence in Douglas.
“At all times, Douglas represented that she was working for or acting on behalf of the Cayman Islands government,” Salako said.
She said Douglas had arranged to have the PR application submitted to government on Robb’s behalf.
Though the permanent residency fees were paido government directly and generated official receipts, the other cash payments to Douglas did not go towards any application, Salako said.
“Putting it bluntly, it was a scam,” she said.
Eventually, Robb became suspicious and reported Douglas to the police. She was arrested in November 2016 and made no comment in police interviews, the prosecutor said.
The Crown’s case centres on a series of text and WhatsApp messages between Douglas and Robb.
Robb, giving evidence on Monday and Tuesday, answered questions about thousands of messages, spanning several years.
Salako also quizzed him about cash withdrawals from his bank account, which she said correlated with payment requests from Douglas.
The messages contain references to fees requested by the “big man” for “Cabinet” and “members of the board”. Robb said he did not know who these people were but understood them to be officials within government whom Douglas was communicating with in respect of his application.
Robb said he had believed the fees to be legitimate and had used his personal savings and money from his business, as well as borrowing from friends and family, to make the payments.
Asked why he did not stop making the payments as the fees mounted and promised refunds did not materialise, he said, “I was trying to get the process completed. I didn’t see any way to end this.”
He added that Douglas was the only person to whom he had given any money or documents and the grant of permanent residency status had given him confidence that she could deliver as promised.
“At this point, I was believing what she was telling me,” he said. “My PR had come through. I believed the story she was selling me.”
The trial continues in Grand Court this week.