(CNS): A George Town woman accused of being part of a permanent residency scam has denied knowing that the scheme was a con. Marcia Hamilton, along with two other women, allegedly defrauded people out thousands of dollars by telling them that the UDP administration was selling the right to live in Cayman in order to help pay off the government’s deficit. Hamilton claimed that she believed this was a genuine offer being handled by a woman called Judith Douglas.
Hamilton claimed she collected cash from others to help secure an application for her own daughter after Douglas told her the grant of PR was contingent on numbers.
Giving evidence in the Grand Court trial, which is being heard by Justice Charles Quin sitting alone, Hamilton said that she became involved when her ex-partner told her about a new permanent residency offer not unlike the 2003 status grants.
Hamilton, who is originally from Jamaica, told the court that she got her Caymanian status during the 2003 Cabinet status grants and all she did to get that was to get a police clearance and write her name and date of birth in an exercise book, which was taken to the Glass House by a friend.
As her own daughter was on a student visa at the time, she heard about this apparent PR giveaway in 2009 and said she paid $1,800 to Judith Douglas to get residency for her daughter. Soon afterwards Hamilton began recruiting others into the scheme and collecting cash because, she claimed, Douglas had told her that in order to get the grant for her daughter they needed to get up to 100 other people to apply.
During two days on the stand Hamilton insisted she believed it was a genuine scheme and she became involved in the first place to assist with her daughter’s residency, but stayed involved when it was clear the residency was not going to happen because she wanted to help people get their money back.
She said that Judith Douglas had refunded her cash on a piecemeal basis and she had tried to get the money back for other friends, though the evidence indicated that Hamilton had continued recruiting new victims for the scam even as Douglas was repaying her for her daughter’s application.
Nevertheless, Hamilton admits to either taking cash from or introducing to Douglas’ scheme around 29 people. The scam involved a third woman by the name of Kathleen Davis, whom Douglas also knew as she was friends with Hamilton’s business partner. Although at the time of the scheme she was working as a housekeeper at the Westin, Hamilton told the court that she was a partner in a construction firm.
Hamilton appeared to act as a go-between to collect money, recruit potential applicants and give out receipts between Douglas and Davis but she insisted that she never knew the scheme was not legitimate and thought that people were all going to get the permanent residency rights based purely on the cash payment.
“I did not know it was a scheme. I thought it was real,” Hamilton said, as she told the court that the word on the street was that this was just like the 2003 grant.
Judith Douglas has already pleaded guilty to several counts, while Kathleen Davis has fled the jurisdiction and is understood to be in Jamaica.
The case, which rests entirely on the question of whether or not Hamilton knew that the offer was a con, continues Friday.