(CNS): A defence attorney said that his client may have been a “terrible business woman” who was reckless and irresponsible when she got herself into financial trouble with her travel agency but she is not “a thief, crook or con artist”. Nick Dixie said stupidity was not dishonesty, as he addressed the jury Thursday on behalf of Theresa Chin at the close of her trial for more than a dozen fraud charges. Dixie said his client took responsibility for the mess she made but he asked the jury to consider if she really was a criminal who should be punished or just a person who did not know how to deal with the business when things went wrong.
The crown has charged Chin, the former owner of Cayman 123 Travel, with a list of deception offences after she took money from customers for holidays and flights but used that cash in an effort to keep her failing travel agency afloat. She is also accused of dishonestly using the credit card of an old customer to pay airlines for other people’s flights without authorisation.
Although Chin was attempting to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’, the crown says she was doing so dishonestly, taking cash from clients for specific trips knowing she was not going to buy their tickets but instead pay off the other debts she was running up as the business got deeper and deeper into trouble.
Prosecuting counsel Toyin Salako pointed to various incidents that she said illustrated Chin’s deliberate intent to misappropriate the money, making her dishonest and not just a bad business woman. She said that on occasions, where clients had wanted to pay for flights by credit card, with the money going directly to the airlines, Chin had lied and told them they had to pay in cash because she needed the money.
Salako pointed to Chin’s unauthorised use of a credit card belonging to Orville Tyson, an old customer, to pay airline bills as another indication of her intended dishonesty. Chin had kept several customers’ credit card details, including the full numbers, expiry dates and security codes.
Chin insisted that when she used Tyson’s card she had done so in error and had intended to use an American Express card belonging to another customer, who had given her permission to use it. The crown said this was “absolute rubbish” and made no sense.
Salako said none of Chin’s victims had authorised her to use their money for something else, anymore than Tyson had authorised her to use his credit card more than a year after he last booked a flight with her agency.
The crown counsel said Chin showed a “total disregard for other people’s money” as she tried to “keep her business afloat”. She told the jury that, even though Chin was the one who was dishonest, she had tried to blame everyone else, including CONCACAF after she made a deal to handle their travel arrangements, which she failed to manage, the banks for not giving her a loan, CIMA for not giving her a licence to sell insurance and the media for reporting her troubles.
But her defence lawyer said there was never intent to be dishonest, and that she had taken in cash from customers to try and keep the business going. Dixie said it was not always easy when a business is failing to identify the exact point when you can no longer save it, and that his client was not made into a crook because she made bad business decisions and failed.
Dixie said Chin had tried and in some cases paid back the money and her efforts to move it around were all to try to keep things going. But there was no dishonesty, he said and insisted that the use of Tyson’s American Express card was a mistake, as it was obvious she would be found out, and she had at one time had permission to use, so it would be even more stupid to use the unauthorised one deliberately.
Chin was a hardworking member of the community who had tried to keep her business going even when it was collapsing, Dixie told the court. She was no con artist, running off with people’s money because she had done everything she could to pay people back when they missed flights and trips. He asked where were her “ill gotten gains”. She has no job, no money and her home is in foreclosure, Dixie told the court, adding that she had never set out to deceive anyone. He urged the jury not to “find lies and dishonesty in chaos”.
The case was adjourned Thursday afternoon and Chin was bailed until Monday, when the presiding judge, Justice Charles Quin, will sum up the case before sending the jury to deliberate.