Crown claims Bouchard defrauded elderly man

| 05/04/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Michelle Bouchard

(CNS): The trial of 55-year-old Michelle Bouchard, a Canadian accused of defrauding an elderly man of over $2 million, began Tuesday afternoon. Opening the case for the prosecution, Simon Russell Flint QC said, “This is a case about greed — greed on a massive scale. This defendant became desperate to become rich in her late age. She didn’t want to get it by work but by stealing it from an ageing old man, James Bruce Handford.”

The crown’s case is that Hanford (87), an Australian national, moved to the Cayman Islands in 2007, where he met Bouchard, an interior designer who assisted him when he purchased a condo on Seven Mile Beach. The two became friends, and later, when Bouchard had some personal and employment issues, she asked him if she could stay with him in the condo.

As time passed, she started working for him, doing secretarial work, Flint told the jury of four men and three women. Shortly after that, she started asking him for small amounts of money for such things as registering her car, he said. They became closer and Handford wanted the relationship to go further, so he asked her to be his girlfriend. Bouchard used the fact that Handford was attracted to her as leverage over him, the prosecutor said.

Handford began buying her expensive gifts, including a $27,000 Rolex watch for her 50th birthday, and hoped that the relationship would become sexual, but it never did.

Flint read out excerpts of the defendant’s diary describing her view of their relationship, how she didn’t want to give in to his desire for a sexual relationship, and saying that if she gave in to his request for intimacy, she would lose her leverage over him. She wanted financial security and income. Intimacy was another level and it came with a price.

Handford continued to be in awe of Bouchard and asked her if she wanted to become engaged, the crown said. She never gave him an answer but said she would look for a ring.

Flint explained to the court that Hanford lived in the Cayman Islands for half of the year and lived the other half in Australia. When he was off-island she would use a joint bank account that he opened for her to use to address his business issues and expenses. Three days after he left on one of his trips back home to Australia, the defendant forged his signature for an authorisation of US$50,000 on one of his credit cards and transferred US$151,000 to her own account from the joint account, which she then turned into a bank draft — a total of US$201,000, which she used to buy a diamond ring from Kirk Freeport.

The prosecution said she had no authority or permission to do this. Handford had no idea that it was happening because he trusted her and did not check his statements closely, Flint said. When he returned to Cayman, Bouchard made sure she took the ring off whenever he was around.

According to the crown, a close friend heard her saying that she was going to get every cent out of him before he died. Handford was 82 at the time and the defendant had just turned 50.

Flint said the money Handford put into the joint account was never for Bouchard to use as she liked. He was attracted to her, trusted her, and she played on that attraction but he was not just giving her millions of dollars. The prosecution claims it will prove that this was part of her plan from the day she was put on the joint account.

The defendent is facing 26 charges: 15 for theft, one for forgery, one for obtaining property by deception, three for transferring criminal property and six for attempting to transfer criminal property.

The case continues Wednesday, when the prosecution will finish its opening statement and begin its case. The first set evidence will be interviews with Handford when the investigation started. However, he now has dementia and does not have sufficient memory of the time when the offences where committed to give evidence in the case.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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