$1.57m paid in a matter of days by virtue of fictitious documents

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$1.57m paid in a matter of days by virtue of fictitious documents

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

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THE $400-million Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial ended on Friday, May 15, 2020 with the conviction of main accused 35-year-old Sanja Elliott, the corporation's former deputy superintendent of road and works; his wife, Tasha-gaye Goulbourne-Elliott; two former employees of the corporation, David Harris, secretary/manager and acting chief executive officer, and Kendale Roberts, temporary works overseer; as well as Dwayne Sibblies, a former employee of Sanja Elliott.

Those freed at the end of the trial were Sanja Elliott's mother, Myrtle Elliott, and former commercial bank teller Radcliff McLean.

In January, Sanja Elliott's father and husband of Myrtle Elliott, Elwardo, was the first to be freed.

The charges included conspiracy to defraud, engaging in a transaction that involves criminal property, several counts of possession of criminal property, facilitating the retention of criminal property, obtaining money by means of false pretence, causing money to be paid out by forged documents, an act of corruption, and uttering forged documents.

The Jamaica Observer continues its publication of the Crown's closing submission, prepared by prosecutors Channa Ormsby, Patrice Hickson, and Jamelia Simpson, as well as Kamesha Campbell, attorney on fiat from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and presented to the court in the case against the seven.

[150] Image 1 (not published to protect witnesses) was recovered from Sanja Elliott's WhatsApp messages. It shows two instances where the Tax Registration Number (TRN) photographic image in the name MM was sent by Mr Elliott on December 15, 2015 and January 13, 2016 to WhatsApp recipient 18768573593 handle “Kendale.” This practice was repeated by Mr Elliott in respect of TW and other persons.

[151] The court recalls the testimony of MM that she sent her TRN to Sanja Elliott in December 2015 at his request, upon asking her to encash a cheque for him. Image 1 was shown to MM and she identified it as her TRN image that she sent to Mr Elliott.

WhatsApp

[152] Diagram 1 (not published to protect witness) shows where Mr Elliott sent MM's TRN to WhatsApp handle “Kendale” on December 15, 2015. Following this, four contractor invoices were created in the name MM all depicting her TRN and a signature purporting to be hers. Kendale Roberts signed off on all these contractor invoices verifying that work was done. The court recalls the evidence of MM that she was never employed to Manchester Parish Council (MPC) and did not perform the works stated in these documents nor caused it to be performed. MM neither accompanied Mr Roberts to these sites to measure the scope of the work nor negotiate the estimated value. This begs the question, what exactly was Mr Roberts verifying? How did MM's name and TRN come to be stated on these invoices? When the questions are examined, Mr Roberts is found wanting.

[153] It is submitted that Mr Roberts facilitated this criminal enterprise by allowing fictitious contractor invoices to go undetected by facilitating a process of verifying non-existent work under the guise that he had accompanied these purported contractors to the respective sites/locations and measured the scope of work and estimates. His criminal purpose continued went he conveyed this to the council by verifying and submitting these fictitious invoices.

Mr Roberts' dishonest conduct as described above sets into motion the creation of MPC invoices, payment vouchers and cheques which he, Mr Harris, and Mr Elliott authorised. In continuing their criminal enterprise, Mr Elliott contacted MM on December 18, 2015 requesting that she cash a cheque for him which she unwittingly agreed to. MM testified that on the same day, Mr Sibblies gave her a Manchester Parish Council cheque which was made payable to her in the sum of $300,000 and accompanied her to the bank where she encashed it and gave the proceeds to him on Mr Elliott's instructions. This is corroborated by Exhibits 6 and 219(d).

[155] Diagram 1 (not published to protect witness) shows that between December 18 and 22, 2015, the council paid out $1,575,000 in a matter of days by virtue of fictitious documents tailored by Messrs Roberts, Harris and Elliott.

[156] Diagram 2 (not published to protect witness) depicts a continuing criminal scheme and purpose. Sanja Elliott sent via WhatsApp message the name “Tyrone” to handle “Kendale” on the 21.10.2015 and 4.11.2015 respectively. Thereafter, invoices, payments vouchers and cheques were generated in TM's name, bearing his TRN and a signature purporting to be his. Mr Roberts signed the contractor invoices verifying that the works described in these documents were performed and Messrs Harris and Elliott certified the MPC invoices and payment voucherss.

[157] The Crown submits that like in the other cases, Messrs Elliott and Harris authorised the payment of monies in the name TM by certifying MPC invoice and payment vouchers prepared from fraudulent contractor invoices, which purported that TM was owed monies by the council, knowing this was not true.

[158] Diagram 3 (not published to protect witness) depicts an agreement between Messrs Harris, Elliott, and Roberts to carry out a chain of events under the guise of a legitimate function but done solely in furtherance of their criminal purpose.

[159] Unlike diagrams 1 & 2, diagram 3 shows Mr Harris as the initiator of the chain of events. In this respect, Mr Harris sent via text message the name “Aldane” on three occasions along with an amount of “400”. Contractor invoices in the name AF in the sum of $400,000 was prepared and signed by Mr Roberts verifying work was done. AF testified that he neither submitted nor signed these contractor invoices. The court may recall that he testified that he only worked in three divisions, namely Mile Gully, Grove Place and Banana Ground. The contractor invoices in question relate to work performed in Royal Flat and Knockpatrick Divisions.

[160] An analysis of the MPC invoices submitted shows where Sanja Elliott, David Harris and Kendale Roberts certified these documents. This resulted in cheques being made payable to AF, which Mr Harris authorised. Given the evidence of AF, the Crown invites the court to find that contrary to suggestions that Mr Harris was merely signing these documents in his official capacity, he actually participated in this criminal enterprise. Concomitantly, that the sums paid out by the council in the name AF was made possible partly because of Mr Harris' criminal conduct.

[161] Further analysis of exhibit 225 shows that Mr Harris continued this criminal enterprise when he sent the following text messages to Sanja Elliott “Heron” and “Tiana” on March 12, 2015 and May 21, 2015, respectively. Following this, contractor invoices in the name TB for work done in the John's Hall Division totalling $420,000 were generated. Mr Roberts signed both the contractor invoice and the MPC invoice; Messrs Harris and Elliott signed the MPC invoice and the payment voucher. TB testified that she did not perform the work described in these documents nor caused it to be done. Further, that she has only worked in the Knockpatrick Division.

[162] Similarly, on March 12, 2015 Mr Harris messaged “Heron” to Sanja Elliott and thereafter, two cheques bearing the name NH and the amount of $450,000 each were made payable to the order of NH, which she subsequently encashed (exhibits 167 and 166). It bears repeating that NH made clear that she performed no work for the council and that the proceeds from cheques were handed over to Sanja Elliott.

INDICATORS OF KNOWLEDGE

[163] The question of context of the messages was raised by the defence, to the extent that it was suggested that the Crown was taking these messages out of context. Knowledge is a component of this offence and the Crown submits that after an analysis of these messages we invite the court to find that the participants named therein were acting in concert with each other to further this criminal enterprise. We further submit that in considering this, the court should have regard to the following circumstances set out below.

Commonality in the direct evidence given by the witnesses as to fact

[164] The Crown submits that this is a material consideration, especially given that the content of the messages involve the transmission of the personal information of some of these individuals as outlined in the diagrams. More importantly, the court recalls that these witnesses testified that they had not performed any work or service for the council when shown the respective documents. Consequently, if this is accepted by the court, how do the participants account for transmitting the names and TRN of witnesses like NH, TB, AF and TM? TB testified that the last time she was employed to the council was in 2014 and she was not owed any money, yet in the face of this, her name is being transmitted in these messages and documents are generated in her name unbeknownst to her. The position is the same in the case of NH, who was never employed to the council nonetheless her name is being transmitted with sums to be paid out to her. How do Messrs Elliott and Harris account for their actions? We respectively submit that they have not, and once again have been measured and weighed in the balance and found wanting.

[165] The Crown invites the court to carefully examine the messages in exhibits 225 and 227, and we submit that the content and context of these messages reveal a calculated tone instructive of a scheme to defraud.

TOMORROW: Backing-dating and post-dating documents


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