A corrupt group of immigration officers and civilians in a fraud and bribery case involving English-language tests were sentenced Thursday for their roles in defrauding government.
Defendants Marcus Alexander, Kathy Ann Forbes, Carlos Robinson, Pheadra McDonald, Diane Dey-Rankine, Santo Castro Castillo, Mariel Maleno Suriel, Carolin Nixon Lopez and Angela Suyapa Rodriguez David were convicted in 2019.
The case of fraud and bribery concerned a network of corruption, involving government officers who held senior roles within the then Immigration Department – now Customs and Border Control – as well as civilians. Three who stood trial were acquitted.
“The actions of the defendants demonstrated how corruption had taken a hold of the Immigration Department,” said Justice Roger Chapple, who presided over the second case and was the sentencing judge.
“Proof of how much corruption had taken a hold of the department could be seen in the fact that if one corrupt officer was not able to administer a test, another could easily step in and administer it,” he added.
Between August 2015 and June 2016, each defendant was alleged to have played a role in providing people with fraudulent passing grades to an Immigration Department English-language test. The exam was a mandatory requirement for work-permit applicants whose primary language was not English.
At the centre of the plot were Alexander, Robinson and Castillo, who have all been described as “primary movers of the scheme”.
Immigration officer Alexander, who was described as the ringleader, was imprisoned for four years for conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, and four months for failing to report the solicitation of an advantage or reward. Both sentences are to run concurrently.
Although Castillo was not an immigration officer, he played a crucial role in the scheme, the court heard. He was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to commit fraud against the government. Chapple also recommended that Castillo, a Dominican Republic national, be deported upon completion of his sentence.
Robinson, also an immigration officer, was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, and four months for failing to report the solicitation of an advantage or reward. Both charges are to run concurrently.
When sentencing Forbes, a civilian, Chapple said he “failed to fathom why she did what she did, and that, unlike her other colleagues, her actions weren’t motivated for financial gain”.
He sentenced Forbes to two years in prison for fraud and four months for failing to report the fraud. However, he then suspended the sentences for two years, meaning she will not be imprisoned.
The judge then turned his attention to McDonald, who was described as having significant mitigating factors. McDonald was given a conditional discharge, with no prison sentence, but her conviction was recorded.
Immigration officer Dey-Rankine, the next defendant to be sentenced, had been convicted of a single count of failing to report solicitation of an advantage or reward. She was the only defendant to be tried in both trials. She was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Civilian Nixon Lopez, a Honduran national, received a similar 12-month sentence, also suspended for two years. She and Dey-Rankine were ordered to pay $500 each to a victim who had paid more than $1,500 to secure a work permit in Cayman, as well as to pass the English test.
Suyapa Rodriguez David, another civilian originally from Honduras, received a six-month sentence, suspended for two years.
The final defendant, and the only person who pleaded guilty to the charges against her, was Suriel, a civilian, originally from the Dominican Republic. She went on to give evidence against her co-accused, which helped secure their convictions. Chapple gave her a conditional discharge on all four charges.
Shortly after the sentences were handed down, the Anti-Corruption Commission issued a statement.
“These sentences send a clear message that corruption at all levels will be investigated and persons prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Law,” said ACC chairman Richard Coles. “The Commission would like to thank Investigator Anthony Daniels, as well as other members of the Commission staff, along with the RCIPS and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, for their work in this matter.”