(CNS): A George Town woman has denied playing a part in a local immigration scam in which she and two other women are accused of conning several hopeful permanent resident or status applicants out of $27,650. Marcia Hamilton pleaded not guilty Thursday to eight counts of obtaining property by deception between October 2009 and April 2010, along with Judith Douglas, who has pleaded guilty to related offences, and Kathleen Davis, who fled to Jamaica following her arrest and has never returned.
As the case against Hamilton opened in Grand Court, the crown said the women acted together to scam work permit holders into giving them cash for a grant of PR supposedly being managed by the premier’s office.
But prosecuting counsel Toyin Saliko said that there was no authorized scheme being run by the office of the premier or the immigration department to grant PR, nor were the women authorized by any government department to make applications, collect cash or convey permanent residency.
However, Hamilton, a Jamaican national who was lawfully granted Caymanian status in 2003, told each of the victims a similar story, as she encouraged other Jamaican nationals here on work permits to take advantage of an opportunity to get PR, the crown said. None of her victims ever received any grant of permanent residency or status and, with the exception of one victim, they never again saw the fees they had handed over to the women the prosecutor told the court.
Addressing Justice Charles Quin, who is sitting alone in the trial, Salako said that Hamilton was the key person in the scam. She was encouraging people she knew and others who were introduced to her to act quickly, as she would often tell victims that the deadline for the grant scheme was on the day they met. Organising various meetings with the victims, herself, Judith Douglas and sometimes Kathleen Davis, she would get them to bring the $2,500 fee per PR application. The meetings took place in vehicles, supermarket car parks, restaurants and at Davis’ house, the court heard.
Hamilton told the victims that the person organising the grants worked in McKeeva Bush’s office. The PR and Caymanian status grants were being made, she falsely claimed at the time, because Kurt Tibbetts during his time as the country’s leader had refused 6,000 applicants for PR and status. But Bush was looking for 100 people to give PR to, so government could get money to help with its deficit.
The victims were asked to get police clearance and fill in PR forms and then pay the fee of $2,500, for which they all received a receipt signed by Judith Douglas. In most cases the victims were told they would be guaranteed to be given PR within a month or so. But as time went by and the victims heard nothing from either immigration or Hamilton, they began chasing their money and found the phone numbers they were given were out of service.
Hamilton worked at the time at the Marriott hotel and the only person to reclaim the $2,500 ‘fee’ was one of her co-workers. All of the other victim were out of pocket when they filed a complaint with the authorities. Following an investigation, Hamilton was not charged until some two years after the crime and a series of adjournments has seen the trial delayed six times, the court heard.
Hamilton denies being involved in a scam and claims that she believed it was a genuine government scheme that was being administered by the relevant authorities. During evidence from the first witness, her defence attorney indicated that a police officer was also involved in the scheme, supporting her client’s belief that it was a genuine initiative.
The case continues in Grand Court One Friday.