A senior bank employee and a former Social Development Ministry Inspector and three others are to appear before a Port of Spain Magistrate today, all jointly charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) of sums totalling $900,000.
Gashyia Siwaju, 42, of Edinburgh 500, a former Inspector II employed with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, was charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the GORTT, 32 counts of Fraudulently Causing the Making of a Valuable Security and 20 Counts of Money Laundering by Receiving (kickbacks).
Kelon Williams, 34, of Piarco, an Operations Manager with a commercial bank, was charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the GORT.
Siwaju and Williams were granted bail in the sums of $500,000 and $300,000 respectively, by Justice of the Peace Young on Monday 9th October, 2023.
The three other accused are:
Josephine James, 71, a domestic worker, of Petit Valley, who was charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the GORTT, 42 counts of Money Laundering by Disposing and two counts of Money Laundering by Receiving,
Terry-Ann James, 43, a messenger employed in the Office of the Prime Minister, of Petit Valley, who was charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the GORTT, 42 counts of Money Laundering by Disposing and two counts of Money Laundering by Receiving, and,
Norman St. Clair, 43, a handyman employed with the HDC, of Laventille, who was charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the GORTT and 22 counts of money laundering by receiving.
The charges arise from a report made to the Fraud Squad, in January 2020, by senior officers at the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, who detected discrepancies in payments being made to a particular retirement home, during the period September 2015 to January 2020.
An investigative team led by Snr. Supt. Arlet Groome, head of the Fraud Squad, assisted by ASP (Ag.) Cornelius Samuel took possession of records from the Ministry, the Registrar General’s Office, as well as financial records of certain bank accounts held at a local commercial bank, for a detailed examination.
Investigations revealed that sometime around September 2015, an Inspector II at the Ministry, who was responsible for approving payments to contracted retirement homes, allegedly conspired with her aunt and cousin, to register a retirement home business at the Registrar General’s Office, as a legitimate entity. They allegedly further opened a business bank account at a local commercial bank.
However, the retirement home had no physical presence or operations whatsoever and only existed on paper.
The Ministry employee allegedly involved her boyfriend, an operations manager at a local commercial bank, to assist in opening the bank account.
During the period September 2015 to January 2020, the Ministry employee allegedly created false invoices which purported that the retirement home was entitled to payments, and in so doing, caused 32 payments totalling $900,000 in State cheques to be paid out.
The fraudulently obtained Government cheques were allegedly passed to the bank employee who ensured that they were quietly deposited to the home’s bank account at his branch.
He then allegedly conspired with another person, who over time, withdrew cash by way of cheques made out to him.
The bulk of the cash proceeds were then distributed between the Ministry employee and the bank employee.
Fraud Squad officers led by Sgt. Kissoon and WPC Kennedy conducted an early morning exercise on Wednesday 4th October, 2023, which led to the arrest of the persons involved in the matter.
The five persons were charged by Sgt. Kissoon on Sunday 8th October, 2023, following advice received from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
ACP White Collar Crime, Wendell Lucas, has commended Snr. Supt. Groome and his team at the Fraud Squad for their sterling performance and dedication to duty in carrying out this investigation and bringing charges against the perpetrators.