Teacher, Justice of Peace convicted of theft of $85,000
A teacher and Justice of the Peace will spend the next 12 months behind bars.
Morris Prescott was on Wednesday sentenced to serve time for the theft of $85,277.28 from the Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society(BWPFS), of which he was president.
Prescott was visibly shaken when the sentence was handed down at the Serious Offences Court and tears could be seen flowing down his face as he stepped out of the defendantâs box.
The president of the BWPFS is said to have stolen the money between January 1 and November 30, 2016. Since being charged on December 30, 2016 he has repaid $10,000 to the society.
Ruby Matthis, secretary/treasurer of the BWPFS, in her testimony, said in December 2016, she and Prescott were to withdraw the money from the bank to make the payments to the members of the society, but she was unable to reach him initially. She said when she did get in touch with him and asked when they were going to pay members their money, he told her they
needed to talk. She then hung up the phone, but a few minutes later went to Prescottâs home.
Upon arrival at Prescottâs home, Matthis said she called him and he and his wife came out. She again asked him when they were going to make payments and he responded, âI have made some bad mistakes.â She said she asked him again, âWhere is the peopleâs money?â To which he responded, âI cannot go into any details.â
At this point his wife then asked him, âOh God, Morris, wey yo do wid de people money?â To which he also responded, âI cannot go into any details.â
Matthis also stated that at the time the money was stolen there were more than 1,700 members of the BWPFS. Payments by members to
the BWPFS were made on Wednesdays in the presence of board members Joan Browne, Alvina Myers, Mona Prescott, Ruby Matthis and Morris Prescott.
Matthis stated that when money was collected, expenses were deducted and the remainder given to Prescott to bank, but in the absence of Prescott, his wife Mona Prescott would take the money to him. Matthis further stated that the money was banked, depending on how much money was collected; sometimes it was banked immediately; other times it would be kept for two weeks before being banked.
In her testimony, Matthis also stated that she was advised to go to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) after Prescott could not give account for the money. She went to the FSA on December 19, 2016, but was advised by the FSA to hold a meeting with the board of the society, so that a collective decision could be made about how they should proceed.
Matthis testified that the meeting with the board was held on the evening of December 19, 2016 and it was decided that she, along with Alvina Myers and Morris Prescott, would meet with the FSA the next day. It was at this meeting that Prescott admitted to the crime, but maintained that he was making arrangements to repay. He also handed over the societyâs bank books.
Prescott was charged with stealing $10,844.45 in January, $6,673.15 in February, $9,978.80 in March, $8,077.25 in April, $6207.15 in May, $7,068.30 in June, $7,276.54 in July, $5,902.40 in August, $2,950.70 in September, $8,850.08 in October and $11,458.45 in November.
Prescott, who initially pleaded not guilty when the charges were first laid against him, changed his plea after one of the original charges was withdrawn and amendments to the other charges were made on Wednesday.
His lawyer Arthur Williams, in mitigation, asked the court for mercy when handing down the sentence.
Williams stated that the defendant was experiencing financial difficulty last year, so he used the money, hoping that he would be able to repay and that he did not hesitate in admitting that he had taken the money.
Prescott was sentenced to nine months in prison for the money stolen in January, five months for February, eight months for March, seven months for April, five months for May, six months for June, six months for July, four months for August, three months for September, seven months for October and 12 months for November; the sentences will run concurrently.
Prescott, who has been a teacher since 1978, was suspended in December 2016, when he was charged with the theft of the societyâs money.(JWC)