Young businessman fined $20,000 for counterfeit notes
A 30-year-old businessman of Frenches has been fined $20,000 for having counterfeit currency in his possession.
Magistrate Rickie Burnett imposed the fine on Diallo Small at the Georgetown Magistrateâs Court yesterday, after Small pleaded guilty to the offence of without lawful authority or excuse, having in his possession 131 EC$100 notes, which he knew or believed to be counterfeits of a currency note on December 28, 2015.
At the first hearing of the matter, Small pleaded not guilty, sending the matter to trial.
During the trial, which was heard at the Mesopotamia Magistrateâs Court, Station Sergeant Bailey told the court that on December 28, 2015, he and a party of Rapid Response Unit (RRU) officers executed a search warrant for controlled drugs at Smallâs home at Frenches.
Smallâs father, Julian Small, a justice of the peace, was present and argued with the police that they had no right to search his home.
Sergeant Bailey ran upstairs, followed by the defendantâs father, where they met Diallo coming from the bathroom. The police officer identified himself and stated the reason for the search.
The toilet tank was searched in the presence of the defendant and others.
Bailey said currency notes were found in an envelope, resting on the float in the toilet tank, to which Small responded: âMe ainât know nothing bout dat.â
A thorough search was conducted and nothing else illegal was found in the house.
A few of the notes that were found in the tank were wet and the ink began to run, causing Sergeant Bailey to suspect that the notes were counterfeit.
Diallo was taken to the Criminal Investigations Department where the counterfeit expert, Inspector Ballantyne counted the money in the presence of police constable Caesar and the defendant on December 29, 2015; a total of 131 EC$100 notes was recorded.
In his evidence, police constable Bibby stated he was at the back of the house at Frenches keeping security, when the window was opened and a mosquito net pushed out. He said he partially saw the defendant through the window with a white envelope in hand and alerted Sergeant Bailey. The counterfeit expert, Inspector Ballantyne, said 131 $100 bills were handed over to him; these bills were in bundles and separated by genuine notes of EC currency. He concluded the notes were not made from the same material as genuine EC currency, but were counterfeit.
At the closing of the prosecutionâs case, Smallâs attorney Ronnie Marks asked that the charges be read to his client again, to which a guilty plea was entered.
In mitigation, Marks told the court that his client was a 28-year-old father of three, with another child on the way. He stated his client was also seeking to assist the police with the matter.
Marks said his client was holding the money for someone he knew, who left the money on the said morning to journey to the leeward side of the island. The police arrived five minutes after, so he believes his client was set up. Marks said the court should give credit to his client for pleading guilty and asked that the young man not be exposed a custodial sentence.
Prosecutor Renrick Cato told the court to pay attention to the behaviour of Dialloâs father when the police arrived and consider what $13,100 in counterfeit notes could do to the society, especially since the money was discovered during the Christmas season. He stated that a strong message should be sent to the defendant and others to show counterfeit money is not okay.
Magistrate Burnett stated the court must examine the nature of the offence, among other things. The purpose of a sentence is to punish the offender to an extent, but it must be just; it is also to deter the offender and others. A guilty plea late in a matter may not give much credit, Burnett said.
âAccording to section 17 of the laws, a magistrate can fine no more than $20,000 for the offence,â Burnett said.
The defendant was fined the maximum â $20,000, $10,000 of which was to be paid forthwith and $10,000 to be paid by March 29, 2018. In default, Small will spend 18 months in prison.(CJ)