Christmas robbery was drug conspiracy, says crown

| 09/10/2018
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands courts, Grand Cayman

(CNS): Three local men from East End appeared in the dock on Tuesday, as the prosecution laid out the case against them for a robbery and drug conspiracy that took place last Christmas Eve at the Morritt’s Resort. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran told a jury that Fred Ollen McLaughlin and Al Elford McLaughlin aided and abetted Marvin Gregory Grant to rob a member of the East End hotel staff, who was guarding a haul of cocaine that had washed up on the resort’s beach at around 4pm that day, as he waited for police. Together the three men conspired to sell those drugs on, Moran said.

He told the jury that the case against all three men was based largely on CCTV footage and telephone records. He said the crown alleges that Grant was the masked robber who arrived at the resort in his own BMW and then, armed with a machete, threatened the guard with the weapon, telling him, “That’s for me,” referring to the drugs, before making off with all but one of the packages.

Prosecutors said Fred McLaughlin was also involved in the conspiracy because it was his red pick-up, caught on CCTV in the hotel car park, that thwarted the security guard’s efforts to follow the robber and aided Grant’s getaway. Both men were being directed by Al McLaughlin, who  orchestrated the robbery and the drug conspiracy, Moran said.

The men were all connected by telephone records and were calling each other frequently minutes before and after as well as during the robbery, Moran said. He maintained that the robbery was triggered after Al McLaughlin’s wife, who works at the Morritt’s, called her husband. At a later date, during a search by police, a set of digital scales was also found at Al McLaughlin’s house, on which traces of cocaine were discovered after forensic analysis, Moran said.

With the BMW and robbery partially captured on the CCTV, police arrested McLaughlin later on Christmas Eve night at Al McLaughlin’s house and the car was seized. The prosecutor said that Grant had claimed he was never at the Morritt’s that day and that he had left his 2017 BMW parked at a dock in East End with the keys inside, while he was fishing until sunset.

When he returned, he found that the car had been moved slightly, he said, but that was not unusual because he allowed friends to use it. He told police he had then made his way to Al McLaughlin’s house, whom he described as a close friend, to prepare food for Christmas. Confronted with the CCTV and phone evidence, he stopped answering questions and offered no comment, Moran told the jury.

He said that after Fred McLaughlin was arrested, he had admitted that he had gone to the Morritt’s hotel on Christmas Eve and, as was his usual practice, he had driven up towards the beach bar so he could see who was there.

But on seeing the man with the machete and packages running towards him, he was shocked and suspected something was awry. He claimed to have then gone after the suspect to find out. The CCTV showed the robber putting the cocaine haul in the car and driving away from the resort, and seconds later McLaughlin’s red pick up reversing out of the car park and following the BMW.

Al McLaughlin was not arrested until a later date after the phone records connected him to Grant and Fred McLaughlin at the time of the robbery. When he was interviewed about Christmas Eve, he said that he had remained at home all day as people came and went. When asked about calls to and from his wife at the hotel around the time of the robbery, he made no comment. He later issued a short statement denying knowing anything about the scales found in his house, Moran told the jury.

Moran said it was the crown’s case that all three men had plotted to take what was believed to be the substantial haul of cocaine that came ashore at the resort and then conspired to sell the drugs. With the exception of one package, which the masked man left behind, the rest of what was believed to be a very substantial haul of drugs, wrapped in black plastic and green duct tape, was never recovered.

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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