Thirty five year-old Algrando Stewart of a Brissette Road address in Cambridge, St. James was ordered to pay over J$13million to the crown following his guilty plea to Possession of Identity Information in the St. James Circuit Court on December 16, 2020.
Police personnel attached to the St. James Proactive Investigation Unit conducted a search at Mr. Stewart’s home on Friday August 26, 2016. In the operation a cellular phone belonging to Stewart was seized and when examined lottery scamming material was discovered. The search also resulted in cash amounting to US$6,230 and J$116,000, being found under the mattress of a crib. These led to his arrest and charge under the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Law Reform Act.
The police reported the matter to the Financial Investigation Division (FID) for further action which triggered a money laundering and asset forfeiture investigation. During this process it was revealed that Stewart received millions in remittances from several persons in the United States, the majority of whom were elderly. The investigation also revealed that Stewart had purchased several assets using cash which was not commensurate to his known income. His claims of being a carpenter remain unsubstantiated.
The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) was contacted and provided with the names of the persons who remitted funds to Mr. Stewart. However, the USPIS was unable to obtain statements from the victims as many of them were in very poor health, lost their cognitive abilities or were deceased.
The investigations exposed where he directly received over J$20million in remittances and millions more via intermediaries. He used cash to purchase two residential lots in Trelawny valued at over J$7million. Stewart also acquired three motor vehicles valuing approximately J$8million over a four-month period. Further, he had cash in the bank exceeding US$9,800 and J$2.9million.
Based on the evidence presented from the investigation conducted, Mr. Stewart consented to the following in the St. James Circuit Court on December 16, 2020:
- Forfeiture of a residential lot located in Coral Spring, Trelawny Valued over J$7million.
- Forfeiture of US$6,230 and J$116,000.
- To pay the sum of J$12million to the Crown; of this amount J$3million to be paid within a month and the balance over the following 24 months.
In relation to the offence of Possession of Identity Information he was ordered to pay a fine of J$1 million or 12 months’ imprisonment, as well as 2 years’ imprisonment at hard labour, suspended for 3 years.
Mr. Stewart pleaded guilty to breaches of the Law Reform Act, which are schedule 2 offences under the POCA. Schedule 2 offences signify that the convicted party leads a criminal lifestyle; it empowers the court to make assumptions that properties owned by, or transferred to, the guilty party came about as a result of their criminal lifestyle. It also allows to the court to assume that his living expenses (utilities, groceries etc.) were financed by the proceeds of crime, unless proven otherwise by the convict.
Acting Principal Director of the FID Keith Darien noted, “This case is still a big win for the division despite the fact that not every part of the estate he would have acquired by his criminal activity was forfeited by his consent.
“The usual court proceedings around forfeiture can be extremely time consuming and resource-intensive. Essentially, his guilty plea and consent to forfeiture, saved the court system quite a bit of time. Many of these cases can drag on for years with no guarantee that every asset the convict would have earned criminally would be forfeited to the crown.”
Darien added, “We are thankful to the police who sought our partnership in pursuing this matter and encourage them to continue in a similar vein when they recognise that a charge laid for one offence may include a financial crime.
“Let this case be another warning that Jamaica is capable of unearthing and unravelling the hidden details about how criminals seek to hide or otherwise invest the proceeds of their crime. Members of the public should resist every effort from criminals to share or otherwise benefit from the proceeds of crime; it is a dangerous and slippery slope.”