Hanover couple sentenced after pleading guilty to lottery scamming charges

Frank Morris and Maxcine Leslie, both of Chester Castle in Hanover, were sentenced in the St. James Parish Court on December 17, 2020 for the offences of Obtaining Property by Means of False Pretence and Possession of Identity Information.

The pair pleaded guilty to the offences when they appeared in Court on September 16, 2020 and are scheduled to reappear in March 2021 to commence proceedings related to the forfeiture of assets they acquired as a result of the scamming.

Morris, a 42-year-old plumber, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment at hard labour or a fine of J$600, 000 for Possession of Identity Information. For the charge of Obtaining Property by Means of False Pretence he was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment at hard labour to run consecutively if the aforementioned fine is not paid.

Maxcine Leslie, an unemployed 42-year-old, was fined J$200, 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment at hard labour for the crime of Possession of Identity Information.

On November 17, 2017 Morris and Leslie were arrested and charged for the following offences – Engaging in a Transaction involving Criminal Property, contrary to Proceeds of Crime Act 2007; Obtaining Money by Means of False Pretence, contrary to the Law Reform Act; Conspiracy, contrary to the Law Reform Act and Possession of Identity Information contrary to the Law Reform Act. However, following a plea agreement, the offences of Engaging in a Transaction involving Criminal Property and Conspiracy were withdrawn.

In 2017, the Financial Investigation Division (FID) and the United States Postal Inspection Services commenced a joint investigation in relation to an alleged case of fraud perpetrated against a citizen of the United States – 83-year-old Beverly Dubois. She indicated that she was contacted in 2010 via telephone and told she had won the lottery and a motor vehicle by a caller who identified himself as ‘Don Chin – CEO of Winners International’. She was coerced by Chin to send money, using various means to offset numerous taxes and fees associated with her winnings.

Over a seven-year period (2010 – 2017) Dubois sent approximately US$148, 000 via cashier cheques, Western Union, Money Gram and Green Dot cards.

The investigation revealed that the telephone numbers used to contact Dubois were registered to Morris who was also in possession of the numbers at the time of his arrest.  It was discovered that Morris and Leslie received several remittances from Dubois. It was also established that their family members, both locally and in the United States, also received monies from the victim.

Morris and Leslie are to appear before the St. James Circuit Court on March 9, 2021 for a benefit hearing pursuant to Section 5 of the POCA. The Court will determine the extent of the defendants’ benefit from their criminal conduct.

The Judge, His Lordship Justice Glen Brown, prior to sentencing, advised the accused that the offences for which they pleaded guilty are serious offences which negatively affect Jamaica’s perception in international spaces.

Principal Director of the FID Keith Darien said, “This case is another example of how the collaborative approach to law enforcement can yield positive results. In this instance the cooperation included international partners. The passage of this case, from charges being laid right through to conviction and sentencing, took about three years, we are always working to see how these cases can be concluded in the shortest possible time. This reduces the likelihood of the convicted persons disposing of the assets quickly.”

“In handing down the sentences here, the Judge would have considered a number of things. These include the fact that neither Morris nor Leslie had any previous run-ins with the law and that they pleaded guilty early which means they didn’t ‘waste’ the Court’s time or any more of the law enforcement’s resources.”

“If the sentences appear light in comparison to the value of their ill-gotten gains, please note, this is not yet over for the couple. They would have benefitted from their criminal activities; we will be using the POCA to recover or forfeit those assets which the couple acquired as a result of the scamming. That will take place when they appear in Court in March 2021.”

He added, “Jamaicans need to fully appreciate the fact that lotto scamming and other financial crimes reflect poorly on our financial system. Among other things, they erode the confidence which international businesses and institutions have in entering partnerships with the country. The ripple effect of that is far-reaching.”