(CNS): Jonathan Piercy, who ran for office on the United Democratic Party ticket in both the 2009 and 2013 elections, categorically denied playing any part in the status scam that the crown says was orchestrated by Paul Hume Ebanks. Giving evidence in Ebanks’ trial Thursday, the former political hopeful for George Town told the court that he knew nothing at all about the status con until late 2013 when the mother of his son told him that she had been involved in what she by then believed was a fraudulent scheme with Ebanks to sell status grants.
Ebanks is accused of stealing over $167,000 from around two dozen people over a three-year period by telling them that he could get them Caymanian status because the former premier, McKeeva Bush, was looking to boost the voter registration and was giving out Cabinet grants to suitable foreign nationals.
The crown claims that as part of his scam and to convince people the scheme was authentic and akin to the well-known mass status grant of 2003, Ebanks used the names of government leaders, such as Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and former MLA Cline Glidden. Piercy was another name that Ebanks had raised as being involved in the scheme.
When Piercy appeared in the witness box, he was asked by Ebanks’ lawyer, Laurence Aiolfi, if he had become involved in the scheme in early 2013 after some of the women also involved in the scam had approached him. He flatly denied even knowing about the con until much later that year and was emphatic that he was not involved.
Piercy denied that Ebanks had ever contacted him about the scheme or that he was ever asked to contact senior UDP officials. He rejected the suggestions that he had spoken with Ebanks about the status scam or saying anything about giving people refunds. Piercy said he was fully aware of the immigration law and if he had known anything about what Ebanks was up to, he would have known immediately it was a fraud.
Piercy’s name was first raised by Ebanks’ attorney, on his client’s behalf, during the cross-examination of a key crown witness, where it was suggested that he had been on speaker phone with Ebanks when she was in his car. But Piercy said he only knew his name had been called after reading about it in a news report.
Piercy admitted knowing Ebanks since the late 1980’s as his sister had briefly dated him back then, but he said they were not in contact and did not spend time together. Then in 2013 Ebanks contacted Piercy to talk about financial trusts.
Piercy, who has worked in the financial services sector, told the court that Ebanks claimed to have inherited cash and property from his estranged late father in the USA and wanted some help deciding what to do with it. But Piercy revealed he was suspicious of Ebanks’ claims and the source of the money, so he told him to seek legal advice.
Piercy told the court that he did not assist Ebanks. However, soon after he had declared as UDP candidate in March 2013 ahead of the May election, Ebanks began offering him cash for the campaign. Piercy said he offered him $10,000 but he refused to take it and made it clear to Ebanks that he did not need the money.
He told the court that he was uncomfortable with where the money was coming from, and even though Ebanks was almost insistent on giving him money, he did not accept any from him. As time went by, Piercy said, he cut off communication with Ebanks after he became suspicious that he was trying to record their phone conversations. When asked by Aiolfi if those suspicions related to him being on speaker phone having conversations about the status grants and giving people refunds, he again emphatically denied any such conversations.
He also denied not telling the mother of his son to go to the police when she told him about the scam. Piercy said he had told her she should make a report, but given her involvement in the con, she needed to tell their son first because she could be in serious trouble and that would impact him.
The case continues.