Flour claim kneaded
Jamaican sisters found guilty on cocaine charges

Two Jamaican women who were arrested at Sangster International Airport trying to smuggle 2½ pounds of cocaine into the United States have been found guilty.

The guilty verdict was pronounced by presiding parish judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley on Friday at the conclusion of the trial in the St James Parish Court.

Lakeisha Bell, 24, and her 18-year-old sister, Santania Clarke, both of Connecticut in the United States, had pleaded not guilty to breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act, prompting the prosecution to begin a trial.

The two women were arrested on July 24, 2020 about 12:20 pm as they prepared to board a JetBlue flight bound for New York.

According to court records, the arresting officer was on duty when he was shown a small brown and red pouch containing a small amount of ganja, and a marijuana grinder taken from Clarke, who had admitted to using the substance.

A burgundy garment bag she had checked in, which she claimed belonged to her and had been packed by her and her sister, with whom she was travelling, was opened and an unusual bulge was noticed on the interior. A false compartment was discovered with a package containing a white powdery substance that turned out to be cocaine.

When told the substance was cocaine, she reportedly said, "Sir, a flour."

Bell, who was on board the plane with her son, was asked to return to the boarding gate. When asked about the luggage she had checked in, she stated that she had checked in three pieces of luggage that belonged to her and her sister and that they had been packed by both of them. Nothing illegal was found in those suitcases. Bell was, however, notified of the discovery in the burgundy garment bag.

When asked who else had access to the bag, Clarke reportedly said, "Nobody, unless Geo sneaked out the bag without our knowledge."

When asked about Geo's correct name, they both stated that they don't know and neither do they know where he lives.

Three additional packages with cocaine were removed from the luggage and shown to both women, who were later charged with possession of, dealing in, and attempting to export cocaine.

Smith-Ashley stated in her judgment that she found the witnesses' testimony trustworthy and did not accept Clarke's account as truthful. She also alluded to the prosecution's argument that Clarke identified the bag with the contraband as hers and admitted packing it herself. The judge also took note of the prosecution's assertion that Clarke's luggage had a bulge that made it obvious that something was there.

"Not only did she know that substance was there, but she knew it was contraband," the judge said.

Smith-Ashley pointed to Clarke's comment regarding the substance being flour, saying that her response indicated that she was not surprised that a white powdery substance was stashed away inside the bag.

Regarding Bell, the judge stated that she did not find her to be truthful in all material respects and questioned whether she was protecting herself or someone else.

"I am satisfied, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Miss Clarke had in her possession cocaine, knew that the substance was there, knew that it was cocaine and was attempting to export it. So I find Miss Clarke guilty of all charges. In respect to Miss Bell, I also find her guilty of possession of, dealing in, and attempting to export cocaine," the judge ruled.

Smith-Ashley then asked attorney Danique Gooden if she wanted her clients sentenced right away, and the lawyer indicated that she would need a social enquiry report prepared for both women.

The judge then directed a probation officer present in court to prepare the reports, and postponed sentencing until May 11.

The women's bails were extended.

Chopping and property damage case settled

A St James woman accused of damaging her spouse's household belongings and inflicting a chop wound on him has had her case settled out of court.

Shanae Barnett appeared in the St James Parish Court on Friday, charged with unlawful wounding and malicious destruction of property.

When the matter was called up for mention before presiding parish judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley, the accused woman informed the court that they had reached an agreement and that she intends to make full restitution.

In light of the agreement, the complainant indicated that he was no longer interested in pursuing the case.

As a result, the prosecution offered no evidence in the case against Barnett.

According to the allegations, on December 4 last year the two got into an altercation resulting in Barnett damaging the complainant's Roshan fan, refrigerator, and television.

When he tried to enter the house, she allegedly chopped him on the left shoulder.

The total cost of the damage is $71,000.

Cuban woman face trial for forged immigration document

A Cuban woman who allegedly used a fraudulent document to apply for an extension of stay in Jamaica will face trial in April.

Ariadna Perez Lopez appeared in the St James Parish Court on Friday, charged with uttering a forged document.

Lopez, who is represented by attorney Michael Hemmings, did not enter a plea when the case was heard by presiding parish judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley.

Hemmings, however, requested a trial date, which was set for April 16.

The accused woman's bail was extended.

According to the information presented to the court, on January 10 Lopez went to the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) office in Montego Bay and presented a Cuban passport as well as an alien registration certificate to immigration personnel in order to facilitate an application for extension of stay.

During the processing, it was discovered that the permanent resident stamp in the passport and the stamp inside the certificate of registration were both abnormal.

The stamp and wording inside the certificate of registration, according to court documents, differed from PICA standards in several aspects, including incorrect colour, font, and font size. Regarding the stamp in the passport, the wording and basis for wording were incorrect.

She was subsequently charged.

Farmer on cocaine charge

A trial date has been set for a St Ann farmer who was reportedly held with $420,000 worth of cocaine and a small quantity of weed in his luggage at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay in October last year.

Alan Reid, 65, of Charlton, St Ann, and Thornton Heath in England, is charged with possession, dealing, and attempting to export 8.5 kilogrammes of cocaine, as well as possession and attempting to export 2.03 ounces of ganja.

The case was heard in the St James Parish Court on Friday before presiding parish judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley, who set a trial date for June 5 and extended Reid's bail.

According to the prosecution's case file, Reid was about to board a flight to Manchester, England, about 3:20 pm on October 1 last year when he was stopped by police at a security checkpoint. His luggage was searched and six packages of cocaine and two packages of ganja were reportedly found.

Under caution, he reportedly said, "Paul gave me the bags yesterday."

He was subsequently arrested and charged.

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