President steals $83,000 from Friendly Society
Morris Prescott, president of the Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society, who admitted to misappropriating EC$83,000 of the financial institutionâs money, has been described as worse than Judas Iscariot and Boko Haram.
Judas Iscariot is known for the kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins, while Boko Haram is a Nigerian militant Islamist group that has been causing havoc through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions.
Treval Ollivierre, who has been a member of the society for 38 years, compared Prescott to Judas and the Islamic group during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday.
âI feel real disappointed. Iâm very disappointed about this situation. I mean the man real disappoint the whole community, because we put all the trust in this man,â complained Ollivierre, while standing in the public road at Vermont.
Last week, members of the Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society learnt that they would not receive their annual pay-out, as is usually done during the first or second week of December.
The Society, which has been around for over 70 years, sees some 1,600 registered members pooling their resources and at the end of the year, when monies are deducted for death benefits, among other things, members usually get back the excess. Many persons use the Society as a means of saving money for the Christmas season.
Ollivierre shouted on Wednesday that Prescottâs dishonesty has shaken the community and left persons in misery.
ââ¦He working with the board and he was the president and 48 times for the year he stole the money. Deposits were given to him four times a month. The man do it and like he donât care. Is like a donât care thing the man do and think he would get away with it and sitting down every Wednesday with the people them,â said the outspoken farmer.
âThe man come like Judas who betray Christ and the man sit down right there comfortable. Even with the last money that the people them paying, the man take that too, which is the money in December. That make me feel real bad, is poor people money. Is 1,600 people registered in the society and the thing is, is nah Ralph Gonsalves money and Arnhim Eustace money, is people who getting poor relief, the poorest set of people money, up to now I canât catch myself,â said Ollivierre, who also lost his Christmas savings.
Ollivierre said that the situation was very upsetting because a number of elderly persons were banking their money with the Society and trusting that they would get back something at Christmas to purchase traditional Vincentian Christmas items like meat, eggs, curtains and drinks.
âI feel it. If is somebody who thieving money, you might take like January and like November or something in between, but the man take everything, four times a month, every payment he take, so he do it like he donât care,â cried Ollivierre.
However, the angry man said that while the theft is being investigated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the police, he does not think that Morris should be jailed, but instead made to pay back the missing funds.
âI would like he pay back the money, because it have people who in it have $2,000, $3,000, some with all $4,000; people put all their confidence in the man and all the time when he was asked how it was going, he was saying the money good.â
Ollivierre said that another board member, whom he referred to as âMiss Mattis,â made Prescott president after the original president Boysie Stephenson died in September last year.
He said that Miss Mattis was responsible for banking the money, but she was robbed at her home one Wednesday by a villager and as a result, put the responsibility of collecting on Prescott because she trusted him, like many others.
Ollivierre said that Prescott and Mattis were supposed to travel to Kingstown last week to get the payments, but Mattis could not locate Prescott when the time came, although he had told the woman to get ready for the trip.
âThe man had no money and he was taking the woman in town, I want to know where he was taking she…,â quipped Ollivierre.
ââ¦The man is a justice of peace, [a senior member] of the cadet force, still the man is a teacher and the president of the society…he real disappoint the people and the people real surprise that Morris Prescott would do such an awful act… because is trust, trust we trust the man and he come like Judas, betray Christ,â said Ollivierre.
Eve George of Queensbury said that she has been in the Society for 30 years and would usually would sometimes deposit varying sums, $20, $5 and $3 on a Wednesday.
âI am not sure how much I was supposed to get, but I felt bad when I learn I wasnât getting any money,â said Eve, who learnt about the missing money last week when someone told her that Morris said that he used the money to send children to school.
âI want my money. I used to get money every Christmas; I canât recall how much I get last year, but it have a lot of people lose their money. I was looking forward to the money. I think he is dishonest; I know him long time. I wasnât at the meeting. I donât even know what to say,â commented Eve, who sees the situation as her being robbed for the first time in her life.
âI wanted to buy drinks and meat and had to depend on my son who work on a van to give me a change. I donât work every day; I wash and thing for people in the river and I take my money and pay my Society book. I never missed a payment,â said the elderly woman, who added that prison is not the answer, as Morris should be made to pay back the missing sum and that cannot be done from prison.
Ezekiel Hadaway, who is also affected, became a member of the Society in 1986 when he left Park Hill and moved to Vermont.
âI get public assistance and I pay that and was looking forward to getting money for Christmas and I didnât get it. I have to take it easy, I canât stress. I think he should say exactly what he did with the money because people been depending on it to spend the Christmas and he have to say what he do with it,â said Hadaway who added, âAll now me nah get no money; me get money last year because the right man was there, but he died. When he was around everything was good.
âI want back my money; he has to pay it back. I want to know where my money gone. It make me feel bad, but Miss Mattis said donât take it on,â Hadaway noted.
Charmaine Charles-Sergeant has been a member since she was a five-year-old child.
âMy parents joined me in society,â she told SEARCHLIGHT from outside her home on Wednesday.
âWhen I heard the news I was disappointed, because Mr Morris is someone I look up to. He taught me in school; he is somebody we look up to in the community as a role model and most of all he is a justice of the peace and with that role comes a lot of responsibility and somebody of that status can arrest persons, so I was a bit disappointed,â said Charles-Sergeant.
She said that her son and husband also have hundreds saved with the financial entity and when she saw there was a delay in getting the money, she called Miss Mattis and learnt that Prescott had pocketed the money.
âI was disappointed because I had it like a savings for Christmas to buy ham, meat, drinks and so forth, but what can I do?â
Charles-Sergeant said that persons would usually deposit their money every Wednesday by putting in how much they could afford and at the end of the year, they would get back some.
ââ¦After the money wasnât coming, I found it strange, because since I know myself, Iâm 44 years old and I was in the society since I was like five or so, and we have never had that problem before, but Miss Mattis used to be the president and recently she was robbed at her home and since she was robbed she made Prescott the president of the Association. So subsequently, after we were not paid and I called her, she told me the whole truth and we had a meeting on Christmas Eve and Morris came to the meeting and he admitted that he stole about $83,000 and when we tried to question him about what he did with the money, he did not want to tell us.
âA lot of persons started to get angry; then he said that he spent the money on schoolchildren, but couldnât give the names.â
Charles-Sergeant said that after he was pressed, Prescott, who is a teacher at the Layou Technical Institute, called two names, but didnât say if the students he allegedly helped were primary, secondary, post-secondary or university students.
âHe said that he was sorry for what he did and he will try to get funds to pay back our monies. He brought a cheque for EC$10,000 and said he would try to source the other money.
Right now I call that dead money. If I get back the money, I get it back. If I donât, I had couple hundreds and my son and husband had couple hundreds too, so it is a lot of persons lost a lot of money. I feel disappointed. I would be coming out,â revealed Charles-Sergeant.
She said that what also makes her very sad is that a number of less fortunate persons could not buy anything for Christmas, so the church had to do a charity drive for them to help them feel comfortable.
âI think he should be jailed, because the lady make him the president sometime in January and he only deposit once, in February. He did not do any deposits and he took the December deposits when he know it was time to pay and went into the account and removed the other monies that were there. Justice has to be done,â stressed Charles-Sergeant.
Reports are that the Societyâs account now has only about EC$1,900. While Prescott has had a number of interviews with the police, he has not been charged with a crime up to press time.
Charles-Sergeant noted that Prescott being charged with a crime may be detrimental, as that would mean that he would lose his job, pension and gratuity and all means of repaying the missing sum. A number of rumours have been circulating in terms of what the missing money was used for.(LC)