Judge throws out NBF fraud case

| 22/06/2016 | 56 Comments
Cayman News Service

Sandra Catron

(CNS): Sandra Catron has been acquitted of eight counts of uttering a false document in a fraud case relating to the controversial Nation Building Fund after a Grand Court judge directed a jury to find her not guilty. Justice Malcolm Swift said the charges were flawed and there was insufficient evidence to support the crown’s case that the documents were false and used to deceive anyone. Following a no case submission by defence attorney Laura Larner from Samson & McGrath, the judge agreed Catron should be acquitted.

Speaking of her relief after the case was thrown out, Catron said that after more than “two harrowing years” she could finally put the ordeal behind her.

“This entire situation has negatively impacted me both personally and professionally. The damage can never be repaired but now I have to choose to move forward in a positive manner,” she told CNS. “The judge has made his decision and instructed the jurors appropriately.”

Catron had been accused of trying to deceive the premier’s office, which was managing the controversial fund created by McKeeva Bush when he held the position during the last administration. She had submitted certificates for students on a paralegal course that her company, Micro-Matrix, administered before they had all graduated, but Catron had been asked for the certificates by government officials and made it clear the course still had several weeks to run before it was over.

Out of the 15 students who registered and who Catron was able to secure NBF grants for in a contract with the office, eight did not finish the course in the timeframe but they had still been provided with the log-in details and necessary course materials for what was a purely online study programme.

When one student complained about the course, an investigation triggered what civil servants called “red flags”. The case was referred to the police by the councillor in the education ministry at the time, Winston Connolly, after that ministry took over what had been the Young Nation Builders Programme, which was the scholarship element of the NBF.

Catron had always protested her innocence and believed that, at worst, this was a civil contract dispute which was taken too far. She said she wondered if her history of asserting her rights in the face of tenuous legal challenges had played a part in the case becoming a criminal prosecution.

“It’s alarming that in less than five years I have been the subject of no less than five different battles with the director of public prosecutions,” she said. “I’ve never heard of such a thing and any reasonable person would begin to wonder about this. I feel that over the past five years I have been targeted for every conceivable wrongdoing and it all started when I stood up for myself in relation to the ‘Precious’ alleged dog theft case. I’m not sure if parties feel they have something to prove but I sincerely hope they can now just give me a much-needed break.”

Catron was referring to a prosecution against her for theft after she rescued what she believed was a stray dog that had been neglected and abused. After several months taking care of the animal and spending money on vet bills, the original owner turned up and a dispute arose which saw Catron wind up in the dock in summary court.

Defending herself, she got that case thrown out as well, but it became just the beginning of a long list of bizarre allegations and disputes in which Catron fought the establishment on her own. She was also responsible for exposing the practice of police using JPs with no legal knowledge for signing warrants.

In this case, despite the widespread concerns and allegations made about the controversial grants given out under the Nation Building Fund, Catron is the only person to have faced any kind of legal action. However, she has said from the very beginning that there was more than enough evidence to support the fact that she had not deceived anyone and that the case should never have ended up in the courts.

“I’ve always stood by my innocence and at best this was a contractual dispute taken too far by one party. There was absolutely no intention to deceive or defraud anyone and that was apparent by the explanatory email sent when the certificates were initially requested. The evidence was clear and supported what I’ve always stated from day one,” she added.

Known as an outspoken advocate on animal abuse issues, the naming of convicted sex offenders and other local causes, including the abuse of the work permit system by some bosses, Catron is no stranger to the public eye, and she believes she has been targeted unfairly in a number of instances by the authorities as a result.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (56)

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  1. Robert Smith says:

    I have to believe it’s time for them to leave her (Sandra) the hell alone! DPP should be ashamed to have brought this to the courts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    While the criminal case may have been flawed, if money was received from the NBF on the basis of those certificates then the extra money from courses that were not completed by students could be claimed back by the NBF since there was a representation made that the students would complete the course and that was not corrected when it became untrue. There may be grounds for clawing all the funding back depending on the terms by which funding was provided.

    • Anonymous says:

      You try registering for a course … Don’t don’t do it and expect a refund. No where in the world is that done!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Except you need to read the contract. The contract indicated that payment was to be made in advance and no refunds were to be issued. Services were rendered. Whether students then took advantage of that or not would not be the providers concern or legal obligation. Any claw backs as you say would be coming from the students themselves! Then again, as someone who did the course, I can tell you there was NOTHING in the sponsorship form that put any obligation on us either. Let’s just say the Premier’s office admin staff admitted there were overly business and made some serious blunders across the board and not just with this group. They had MANY others as well that they were not even monitoring for grades.

      What do you suggest? They to go USF and demand a refund? How would that even be feasible? Did the students who requested the sponsorship have no obligations in all of this at all?

    • Anonymous says:

      Students are responsible for their own behavior, but the teacher still needs to be paid..

    • Anonymous says:

      The contract plainly stated that terms of the agreement between the parties. Payment had nothing to do with the certificates.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Winston … really? You did this bro?

  4. Anonymous says:

    So all the back slapping and high giving aside, did she receive any government (my) money she was not supposed to? That nation building bucket of slop must have been pretty inviting to many locals.

    • Anonymous says:

      The YNBP Funding Scheme, has legitimately helped and benefited persons in accordance to its purpose and contract. Is was not a perfectly ran program, but all participants weren’t thieves or people who countered their contracts.

      XXXXXXXX and their dedicated stooges (ie most of whom were Temp Staff) we’re all looking for polical points when they embarked on these ‘Witch Hunts’. What they are coming to realize is that they were in pursuit of the wrong individuals. Not every popular citizen, I’ll-fated (poor) Caymanian, outspoken personality, or UDP Advocate that was selected as puns or primed candidates for legal suits, were indeed guilty of the charges. Sandra’s case is a perfect example of this. Not to OTHERS whose lives were affected as a result of similar interferences with ridiculous claims of deferauding the Government/Program, who have not (yet) taken the legal against them.

      What these Ministers and particularly Chief Officers & Councilors need to focus on is FIRST the contract and THEN the process, and cease trying to further murk the genuine intentions of people’s actions- by perpetuating menacing behavior that (is understood to) have cause an upset not just in Cabinet but also on the “Investigative Front”.

      Anyways, many will be removed from these “official” government positions in 2017. So, my advice (to you) would be to quickly make nice with the private sector, in hopes that your job search and placement will not be as challenging as those experienced by much of the Local/Caymanian population.

      Sandra, like with others, may have suffered much drama and distress at the hands of questionable leaders and facilitators, but your time is drawing near.

      To Sandy: I’m blissful to hear of your legal victory, once again. All the best!

      • Anonymous says:

        2 things… Liked what you say but ‘Anyways’ is not a word!!!
        And all those voting down and troll, you folk are hilarious. If you read the article or followed the trial and still down vote, you are just haters of Sandra. Get over it. She did nothing wrong.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This woman is Teflon ! nothin will stick God bless her because it’s all garbage by the dpp who seems that they don’t know a case that can be won if it hit them in the face

  6. Anonymous says:

    Where theres smoke theres fire, dey ga get ya one day td lol

    • Anonymous says:

      According to the Judge, the DPP gad no case, The detailed email sent to the Former Premier explains the purpose & conditions for which the Certificates were released to Mr. Bush, at his request.

      So, what’s your gripe with Sandy?

      Are you one of the bitter souls who lost, to her, in a prior court battle? Shhhhhhhhid, it almost reads like it. [insinuations]

    • Anonymous says:

      She did nothing wrong. Can’t you see this was all because of her relationship with McKeeva Bush. Besides, she is very bold and outspoken and those in power don’t like that, especially coming from someone of her color. They have been at her far too many times now for it to be normal. That was all a conspiracy to try and link her to McKeeva but that one failed also. The same one that plotted against McKeeva tried to get her.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I could not believe my ears during the court testimony that Winston did not even bother to read and understand the contract that the whole transaction was based off. Is he really a lawyer? 5th elected member? He needs to not get elected next time all. Then Tara Rivers threw him under the bus on Facebook saying she had nothing to do with it. What a sour bunch!

  8. Anonymous says:

    The girl is good ….. believe it or not… you may not like her for whatever reason but that girl is good..

  9. Anonymous says:

    I heard her comments on the radio this morning and honestly it was heartfelt and broke my heart. This would be an ordeal for anyone to get over once but 5 TIMES!!! Seriously? If this isn’t a personal vendetta I have no idea what is. This is horrible.

    I hope she decides to sue the government – but you can’t sue for incompetence can you?

  10. Get Up says:

    This again shows the lack of a credidable, honest and ethical Prosecutions Office and Judicial System.

    There is a Code of Ethics for the office of the DPP but its blatantly obvious that the legal system here in the Cayman Islands is corrupted and the DPP’s office does not follow this Code of Ethics.

    It is constantly being used to support the personal vendettas and agendas of the rich and socially powerful here in the Cayman Islands, as in much of the rest of the world.

    It has now become a money making bussiness with the poorer being the losers because either they are the ones being prosecuted and convicted, because they cant afford a lawyer, or paying high import duties to fund the Govts costs after lawsuits.

    Why is there no consequences for the persons who have caused and acted on these wrongfull prosecutions. Why are they not penalized for going ahead with a questionable prosecution, that from the begining, was not proven. Was the Code of Ethics applied in this case. I dare say it was not because it would not have passed the test of the evidence.

    But there might lie the issue. What is the DPP’s interpretation of these cases. Maybe the way in which she percieves the evindence in these cases is the problem. Maybe she has lost track of the way the tests are conducted and/or the way the conclusion may or may not go. Maybe she has aquired a GOD complex and everyone is guilty in her eyes no matter what. Maybe she is like a horse with blinders on. She can only see what is in front of her coming.

    If an EMT makes a mistake that causes even a minor issue or worst, costs someone their life, he is fired, immediately upon finding of his mistake. He is no longer allowed to operate as an EMT anymore.

    We have an EMT in the DPP. She has cost us untold millions (because the GOVT uses non disclosure agreements like some use liquid paper to cover their mistakes). Why is she still in that position.

    Get up and do something Cayman. Get Up.

  11. DJango Freeman-Ebanks says:

    Why is this woman alway is in trouble before the courts is it bad luck or she is public enemy number one for the DPP office due to political interference?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you know understand that once the RCIPS and DPP have you on their radar they will try and try and try and try. No matter how many loses they will keep coming! This particular case wreaks of political interference. A politician is the complainant and the incompetent NBF staff were trying to cover their own rear ends.

      Ask them how many other people didn’t fulfill the terms of their sponsorship and how many of those have been arrested and dragged through the courts. Not a single one! Winston, when he was with the govt., had an agenda against Mac. But honestly they are so dumb in how it was handled. Many others may have been deserving of scrutiny more so.

      In this case there was a contract and govt. did not hold up their end of bargain. Winston didn’t bother to read it he admitted in open court. So in the contract there’s no mention of ever providing completion certificates to the govt. Those certificates were for the benefit of the students. Who never got them unless they met the necessary criteria.

      When govt. requested them they were told “why are you requested certificates when the course is not yet done?” She explained that the certificates were pre-pared and they could get copies of those if they wished. NBF staff neglected to even respond to her and then turn around and asked the same question again just mere days later.

      DPP claimed they were not prepared that far in advance. Judge didn’t accept that because there was no evidence to suggest that’s the case. No one but Ms. Catron and God would know precisely when they were prepared but in advance is correct. She says it was done off the book list early on in the process. All we know is when they were requested it was indicated at that point they were all done – there was no need for a fraud because outstanding payments were not reliant upon the certificates being handed over. Firstly, the money was late but already owed on the first part of the contract. She could have refused to hand over anything and govt. would have still been obligated to pay.

      Judge said it still had 4-6 weeks to go. Entirely possible someone could have uploaded all assignments and still passed despite not having done anything prior. They had access to books and materials etc. so why didn’t they do the work.

      The one student they brought into testify said she was “busy and dealing with personal issues”. However, she was also discredited by Mrs. Larner because she claims all she did was request sponsorship. 4 emails were put to her proving she did more including asking about how to submit her password for the website despite already receiving an email with the detailed instructions on what to do.

      BOTTOM LINE: The NBF staff were disorganized, never wanted Ms. Catron to get this contract and had an agenda of their own. One staff member said she didn’t even see the email explaining about the certificates – despite being copied on it. Said she was too busy. Too busy to pay attention to this but not too busy to accuse a person of fraud and ill intent because of your internal screw ups?

      When PPM govt. took over they had an agenda against the NBF and Mr. Bush and Ms. Catron and Winston saw this as a means to get all 3 in one swoop.

      He didn’t do any independent due diligence which he admitted in court. He took a file from Judy Powery, a mere secretary and took her word as gospel. He didn’t read the contract, didn’t contact the vendor, didn’t contact the students etc. None of that. NO mention here of how she ignore ALL of the positive feedback she received from people who did the course. Do you wonder why the DPP only called 2 students as live witnesses? Hmmmm … think closely about that.

      Their case was always in trouble. As I sat in court and listened to more than 2 hours of her police interviews being read out it became apparent what had transpired. Ms Catron’s story was the same from the onset and never wavered.

      You should have gone to court like I did – then you would have seen the fiasco for yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      The only logical response to your question given the charges are ALWAYS thrown out by judges is there’s a vendetta against her!

  12. Anonymous says:

    As part of the restitution the DPP should have to offer her to do Articles with them, then after completed they should appoint her as DPP. So in the next eighteen months Sandra should be the new DPP. Incidentally they are now as I write discussing in the L A what is being offered in relation to Articles in the DPP office so Sandra you are now positioned well to apply again.

  13. Anonymous says:

    With all the love Sandra is getting in these comments, I would not be surprised she is the one writing them. I do think this case was a waste of the courts time so I will agree with her on that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sad that you would even think that. She got over 230 likes on her “NOT GUILTY” Facebook posts. So yea you may be surprised but the average Joe is not! We see what’s happening here and followed her updates and could see the political nature of the case from the beginning. So many people benefited from the fund who never deserved to. She was in a business transaction. Completely different.

      I have done courses before and if I didn’t show up there was NO REFUND to be given. What makes government think they are so special?

      Why didn’t they go after the people who requested the scholarship and hold them accountable? None of this ever made any sense to me.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What does she have on the politicians of this island to remain in office this long after countless embarrassment. The Governor should step in for something positive for a change and fire her.

    This Office is a disgrace and the government wont act until they are face with tens of millions in lawsuits. I suggest Sandra set the benchmark with one of her own. Many more will follow.


    • Anonymous says:

      I agree.

      It’s time she set a precedent on the restitution pay-out for this sort of legal tirade & public humiliation, committed by the DPP.

      And, when it’s all said & done, Thank Winston Conolly and the Ministry that (stood by and) allowed this bullsh*t to happen.

      Shame on you Winston.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Am I reading this correctly, she charged Government to provide an online course, which presumably could have been accessed directly by those wishing to study it and assuming she didn’t write the online course? Who the heck in Government approved a payment to a ‘middleman’ if they provide no added benefit, oversight or training. What exactly was Ms Catron’s company paid for?

    • Anonymous says:

      Poor you – so silly. It is her course! Customized by her/company and is offered online to people here. Come again silly! You do realize local people can setup online training as well right?

      STUPID is as STUPID writes!

      • Anonymous says:

        By her own statement it was solely an online course, do you really believe she wrote a paralegal online course? Again, she admits some shortcomings when she notes that it was at best a contractual dispute. I believe she may have taken a pre-packaged white labelled online course, maybe added the company logo, done enough to pass it off as ‘customized’, and billed Government. It failed half the people who signed up for it, which is the real shame, and no mention on how well the other 7 got on. I would suggest you think past the obvious. BTW stupid is a very objectionable word, however, in this instance I couldn’t agree more.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have done the course. Over 5 years ago and was sponsored by the islands largest law firm. It was accredited by a UK body and designed by her. Nothing about her putting it together for the NBF it was long in place before then and accredited.

      Stop trying to discredit people when you have no clue what you’re talking about.

  16. Anonymou says:

    yes Sandra Catron your are the best, why government don’t hiring you as a crown lawyer.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well done also to Catron’s lawyer, Mrs Larner. By all accounts, this lady really has her stuff together.
    She should be DPP and get rid of that useless seat warmer we have now.

  18. Anonymous says:

    DPP should be seriously embarrassed. I’ve never heard of a person being charged for so many things in such a space of time and never yet getting convicted. The worst part is they always get thrown out at the early stage of the proceedings. This legally proves how incredibly flawed their cases against her have been. She has never once had to put on a defense. That’s surely says a lot about the DPP and their inefficiencies.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Good for Catron on the outcome. She should not paint her self as innocent and victim of a witch hunt, as some of the issues she advocated for caused a lot of personal and professional damages to other parties. In any case, congrats on the win.

    • Anonymous says:

      And how does advocating for such issues justify this sort of thing? I’m confused.

      The reference to witch hunt is because all of a sudden in less than 5 years she has been subjected to 5 criminal allegations – ALL thrown out by judges. I think that says a lot about what the judges themselves think about the allegations and any objective person would HAVE to question what on earth is going on here.

  20. Shhhhhhhhhh. says:

    Is this yet another case of infertile prosecutions costing tens of thousands of dollars being pursued in an attempt to discredit outspoken individuals? How many more will we see?

  21. Anonymous says:

    If the DPP stopped wasting court time like this, we wouldn’t need an expensive new courthouse.

  22. lo-cal says:

    As a matter of principle the head of the DPP should resign. I have read of far too many cases which by any standard should not have made it to court however they are being pushed through as is, evidence or not. I hope Sandra sues the government for a substantial sum for damage to her reputation.

    I truly wonder what it takes for someone to be relived of their duties for non-performance in this office.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This should have never gone past Winston. I’m a bit embarrassed for him because I thought better of his common sense than letting this go forward to this extent.
    Good on ya Sandra.

  24. Allar says:

    This goes to show that the DPP office is not doing there jobs. It is also evident that when they are making decisions to charge the do not look at the evidence at hand. I firmly believe that Sandra was a victim of Politics and person who wants to discredit McKeeva regarding his handling of the nation building fund. Such a shame that persons is subject to this sort of victimization. I am really happy for you Sandra.

  25. Anonymous says:

    She seems to be more intelligent than most of our Government paid lawyers.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Aye boo another ‘witch hunt’!!!! When will the DPP stop this madness? They seem to go after financial crime more as they think it’s easier to get a conviction; one bit of advice pour all your efforts in solving the numerous unsolved murders and leave innocent people alone.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Once again Sandra Catron has run rings around our so called law enforcement and prosecution “experts”.

    They really need to ask themselves why this is.

    What’s the score now?

    • Anonymous says:

      CATRON: 5 … DPP: 0 – WOW – have they thought about hiring her as a crown lawyer? I understand she’s still looking for articles.

      • Anonymous says:

        and we should take away any qualifications that Government have because they dont appear to know what they are doing.

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