Security firm brought to brink by $420k theft

| 23/04/2017 | 50 Comments

(CNS): The theft of more than $420,000 from The Security Centre Ltd by its former financial controller over a three-year period has almost ruined the business, the court heard Friday when Patti Jane Ebanks (51) appeared for a sentencing hearing. The local woman, who is suffering from mental health problems and alcohol addiction, stole the cash from the firm and concealed the theft, making management think its finances were far better than they imagined, which led to the development of a new office building it could ill-afford. Ebanks was arrested almost four years ago but a catalogue of issues have conspired to delay the case.

She was originally charged with stealing over US$1 million and a catalogue of deception offences but further investigations revealed that the amount was closer to half a million dollars and that there was no evidence of forgery or other deception crimes. Ebanks eventually pleaded guilty to one count of theft of CI$420,281 in November 2016 on the morning of trial after the crown changed the case against her.

As crown prosecutor Toyin Salako set out the details of the crimes for the judge to consider the appropriate sentence, she said Ebanks had taken advantage of and exploited a disorganised accounting department that she controlled and duped two of her colleagues into co-signing and cashing petty cash cheques over a sustained period. She was able to conceal the theft because she had full control over the company finances.

The missing cash came to light after her employers became increasingly concerned about her behaviour. Ebanks was a recovering alcoholic when joined the company in 2008 but at some point she fell back into addiction and sustained mental health problems.

Although they were trying to help and support Ebanks, she denied having any issues until the company, worried about the decline in her ability to work, conducted an audit. It found unauthorised cheques totalling more that $400,000 that had been cashed by an unsuspecting employee on behalf of Ebanks and co-signed by another manager, who both believed the money was being used for company expenses and invoices.

However, Ebanks was using the cash for impulsive and compulsive online shopping and to fund her addiction.

Salako explained that because Ebanks headed up the company finance department and was also on the board as the company secretary, she was able to conceal her crimes and present accounts that covered up her theft. During the three-year period that she was stealing, Ebanks earned over $178,000 plus benefits and annual bonuses totalling over $38,000. But because of her addiction, mental health problems and impulsive behaviour she was spending huge amounts of money shopping.

In a victim impact statement, the owner of The Security Centre, Stuart Bostock, said his business suffered way beyond the loss of the cash. The firm’s board made decisions without realising there was a half million dollar hole in the company.

They embarked on developing new headquarters and expanded the business. But when the theft came to light, their reputation was not only damaged but they found themselves unable to pay shareholders. Bostock said the company has survived only because its shareholders have not taken dividends and the owners have forgone their salaries.

Laurence Aiolfi, from McGrath Tonner, who represented Ebanks, stressed his clients long-term mental health and alcohol dependency problems. He said it was a breach of trust case but it was not particularly sophisticated. He said she was able to steal for as long as she did because there were no checks and balances in the company’s accounting system. She had full control of the increasingly chaotic and disorganised environment as her alcoholism got an increased grip on her and she responded to her impulse to offend.

Ebanks was remanded in custody in January and has been responding well to treatment but Aiolfi said that there were limits to what Fairbanks could offer to help address her mental health and addiction problems, as he urged the court to consider a part custodial, part suspended sentence so she can go to an overseas facility for proper help. He explained how she has in the past managed to stay sober but her addiction was triggered by anxieties and stresses she could not cope with.

Aiolfi said she was of previous good character and has shown enormous remorse and regret over what she did, but he said there was no way for her to make restitution to her former bosses because she spent the money as she stole it. She has lost her home and job and is financially ruined and many of her family relationships have broken down. He said she had only survived at all since she was charged through the kindness of friends and some family members.

The issue over whether Ebanks should receive a significant credit in her sentence for her eventual guilty plea was a point of dispute between the lawyers. Salako argued that although the crown’s case had changed, they had spent a lot of time trying to get the information from Ebanks that would have reduced the charges against her at a much earlier date. But Aiolfi said that after she was charged, her mental state and addiction hindered her ability to give instructions to him for her defence. 

Visiting judge, Justice Dame Linda Dobbs, who had been scheduled to preside over the trial, said last November just before a plea agreement was reached that, given all of the circumstances, Ebanks should still receive a substantial discount on any jail time if she pled guilty, even though it was last minute. 

Justice Charles Quin, who heard the submissions regarding the case, said he would consider all the circumstances and deliver his ruling at the end of next month, as he remanded Ebanks back into custody.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (50)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    heyguys. maybe she stupid but not dishonest…




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  2. Anonymous says:

    Apparently not a very secure centre after all.

    😉




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  3. Anonymous says:

    This is what happens when you are forced to hire locals.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    women…..




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  5. Harauguer says:

    Poor Patti, maybe the goverment should send her on a nice round the world cruise so she can recover from the traumatic experience of getting caught stealing.
    She is Caymanian right?




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  6. Anonymous says:

    Well, it seems that this business must make a serious amount of $$$$ if for years they can’t catch on to what is happening……Too often you see businesses being set up in Cayman, to be run by some staff who absolutely don’t give a shit how well or how bad the business is doing and the business owner who didn’t want to get his/her hands dirty with the day to day management of the business is then utterly surprised when the business is going under.

    There are a number of smaller business I have recently been to where I wonder if the employer/business owner has any idea how clueless their staff is (locals and expats alike) or the lack of any sort of professionalism towards customers/clients. In some cases I have considered to bring it to the attention of the owner, but then decided the business owner didn’t care enough to ensure that I as the client/customer has a good/postive experience at their business, so why the hell should I care….let them go under…………




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  7. Anonymous says:

    Imagine if she used her company credit card at Casinos as well……wait a minute….




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  8. Anonymous says:

    She was family to one of the big cheese’s so that’s why she was given free rein in the accounting department.

    Can’t trust no one these days, worst family members.

    I’ll tell you what an old colleague (Inspector from the UK) once told me who worked in Commercial Crime in the old Tower Building back in the 90’s.

    He said, “Don’t be a criminal period……… but if you do get involved in criminal activity, then do commercial crime as the monies are usually large and the crimes can always be mitigated as non-violent which results in lighter sentences overall” It will take time to catch you and investigations can be very complex but you will be caught, as commercial crimes always leaves a paper or electronic trail behind.

    Very true statement.

    You can always tell the court that you stole monies because of being an alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, sex addict, job loss, my husband or wife forced me into debt, medical issues and the list goes on and on. The sentences are guaranteed to be much lighter than being caught with an unlicensed firearm or unlawfully injuring or killing someone in a vehicle.




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    • Anonymous says:

      And just like one caymanian attorney said:deny everything. Even if got caught red handed. This is never what it looks like. Lol




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  9. Anonymous says:

    did some ebanks break your heart 7:36 ? don’t take it out on all of us that’s
    too much , what do you have to say about all the other last names that commit
    crimes, get over your bitterness and move on. Whatever the outcome this woman
    will have to deal with it




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  10. Anonymous says:

    “…long-term mental health and alcohol dependency problems…” have not prevented her from carefully orchestrating the scheme.




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  11. Anonymous says:

    Should read “Security firm brought to brink by poor management and oversight”. Employee theft is merely a symptom. Some of the Board members might want to dust off their Accounting 101 text books.




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  12. Knot S Smart says:

    Lock she up and bring the key for me…




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    • Anonymous says:

      And get you back to grammar school.




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      • Knot S Smart says:

        Sorry to burst your self-righteous bubble, but I am educated to the MBA level. When I write I do so in ways as to catch the attention or understanding level of less educated persons like yourself…




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        • Fred says:

          “The MBA level…”? Which MBA level is that? Or are you deliberately mangling your grammar because you think the poster is ill educated?




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  13. Cayman Breached says:

    I tell you what is very odd is the dramatic change in the original amount from nearly a million dollars to 400K and what is even stranger is we have some who honestly people she is responsible for the theft of all that money i know they aint got me fool how about you?? 500k is missing or unaccounted for?




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  14. Anon says:

    The next thing I do anything wrong in life, I’ll say that I have a mental health problem so that I can get out of it.

    Further, based on the logic of this statement “But because of her addiction, mental health problems and impulsive behaviour she was spending huge amounts of money shopping.” – One could say that all women, no, any person actually, that spends huge amounts on shopping has a mental health problem and are addicted etc.

    If you’re reading this, you probably have a mental health problem and didn’t even know, because you like to shop.

    This lady’s case is weak. If I were a lawyer I wouldn’t defend someone like this.




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  15. Anonymous says:

    No problem, they will just get more PPM Government contracts to make up their losses!




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    • Anonymous says:

      A security company that wants you to pay them to secure your assets when they cant even secure their own..ummmm no thanks. You are right though, Bostock ensures he gets the lion’s share of contract work…and not by providing the best services or prices.




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  16. Caymanian says:

    As someone who has an accounting background I can say that the problem starts when owners don’t control signing of checks. This can become problematic in a large scale business with hundreds of employees but with a smaller operation such as Security Centre it should have been managed.

    This is where their problem started. The person writing, signing and reconciling the checks and also involved and controlling postings was one person. That is a recipe for disaster. I am still a bit baffled by the amount she managed to siphon from the company.

    The owners would do better to stay at home managing the day to day operations rather than motorcycling all over the world. Just a thought.




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    • Jeremiah Bodden says:

      I think the problem started when the decision to act dishonestly was taken.
      All I hear is illnesses, addiction, somebody else’s fault etc.
      Does any responsibility ever get taken locally here?




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  17. Anonymous says:

    Her illness drove her to resort to stealing money to fuel her alcohol addiction analogous to a cocaine addict who steals to support the addiction. Funny how I’ve personally never heard of anyone with a cannabis addiction who had to steal to support their “cannabis addiction” yet, we still regulate alcohol like a harmless susbtance and restrict the one which is harmless, cannabis. Ignorance is bliss.




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    • Caymanian says:

      No. Cannabis addiction drives you to buy food to eat. So you see someone always at grocery store watch out….lol




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  18. Anonymous says:

    Such a sad case.




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  19. Kuklux says:

    Finally someone who isn’t young and Caymanian by birth!! Get rid of the scum drain the swamp.




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    • Anon says:

      She is Caymanian. She was a bracca , Bodden married an Ebanks!




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    • Anonymous says:

      You guys are really different. Last time you all thought the employer deserved it because it was an expat accountant and not a Caymanian. Now its a Caymanian and there is no swamp to drain to sort this out. Criminals come from all walks of life. Sad for all involved as always.




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  20. Anonymous says:

    Embezzling and spending what is not yours is a Cayman disease going back many years.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Example set by famous politician which makes it ok.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah. And we have no cases of expats coming here and doing the same….such as the manager of the Pines, or the expat lawyer who embezzled from Solomon Harris…or the Canadian chick who stole all the money from Hanford. Caymanian disease indeed.

        The sad unfortunate truth is for white collar crime, you need to be quite good at Math. As the exams scores show, we aren’t.

        I long for the days when Caymanians are “white collared criminals” because then at least we will know we have moved up the social ladder…..




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        • Anonymous says:

          Oh we have long list of Caymanian book keepers and accountants who have stolen from cayman businesses including this lady.




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  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh hi, is no one accountable?




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  22. Anonymous says:

    Addiction is hard. Let’s get her help, not jail.




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    • Anonymous says:

      So because she used the money to buy alcohol and get drunk she is somehow not responsible? Go ahead and explain that to drunk drivers that they just need help and not jail. What a ridiculous comment…




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    • Anonymous says:

      brought the company almost to destruction??BS..but bear in mind they didn’t even know the money was missing till after 3 years and this is what is securing major government entities….they are doing so bad, they built a million dollar facility, bilked millions of dollars from the CCTV, but isn’t someone else suing them or suing Stuart Bostock who left cayman to start a US branch of security ctr????




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    • Anonymous says:

      She need to go to prison. Her maternal uncle had an alcohol problem and her family showed no mercy towards him.




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  23. Anonymous says:

    Simply reduce the hourly wage from 6 back to 3, like they used to pay.




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  24. Anonymous says:

    The last name will have a lot to do with the disposition.




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  25. Anonymous says:

    Not great for a security firm, i would not go anywhere near them. They wanted a large deposit from me when i was building a house . They could of so easily gone under and i would have lost the lot, lucakly i went with another company. Who knows how stable they are now.




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  26. Not Again! says:

    This routinely happens in Cayman as business owners do not engage external auditors to audit or review the books and become over reliant on “trusted” individuals. Over time with no one checking on them the “trusted” staff member can’t resist and robs the company blind.

    $15-$20k a year to have someone else checking your records is not a bad insurance policy. If the company is small the owners/directors need to be paranoid and check the accounts themselves.

    It is awful when companies have to layoff good staff because one person got greedy. Even worse if the business fails and many people lose their jobs!




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    • Caymanian says:

      Small to medium size business owners should control their check books signing wise. At no time should someone control too many processes. If the owner retains signing authority then these sorts of things have far less chance of happening.




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    • Rodney Barnett IV says:

      This is an excellent point. However I think it would be applicable to businesses where the owners are not on site, and have little or no interaction with cash and with invoices and income. As a former business owner, I was very much involved in handling receipts and signed every check personally, only after reviewing the invoice. With that level of participation, I instantly would know that a check reimbursing “petty cash” was inappropriate if the petty cash fund was reimbursed only a few days before.




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  27. john smith says:

    she cant be that mad if she is clever enough to conceal her crime for such a long time. lol




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  28. Anonymous says:

    This lack of internal control over company finances, knowing their “accountant” was a recovering alcoholic, yet they are still awarded government contracts. Things that make you go hmmmm.




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