Friendships abused in criminal scheme

THE $400-million Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial ended on Friday, May 15, 2020 with the conviction of main accused 35-year-old Sanja Elliott, the corporation’s former deputy superintendent of road and works; his wife, Tasha-gaye Goulbourne-Elliott; two former employees of the corporation, David Harris, secretary/manager and acting chief executive officer, and Kendale Roberts, temporary works overseer; as well as Dwayne Sibblies, a former employee of Sanja Elliott.

Those freed at the end of the trial were Sanja Elliott’s mother, Myrtle Elliott, and former commercial bank teller Radcliffe McLean.

In January, Sanja Elliott’s father and husband of Myrtle Elliott, Elwardo, was the first to be freed.

The charges included conspiracy to defraud, engaging in a transaction that involves criminal property, several counts of possession of criminal property, facilitating the retention of criminal property, obtaining money by means of false pretence, causing money to be paid out by forged documents, an act of corruption, and uttering forged documents.

The Jamaica Observer continues its publication of the Crown’s closing submission, prepared by prosecutors Channa Ormsby, Patrice Hickson, and Jamelia Simpson, as well as Kamesha Campbell, attorney on fiat from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and presented to the court in the case against the seven.


Cross-examination of AF (name withheld to protect witness)— Inconsistencies and Omissions

[118] AF was subjected to extensive cross-examination by learned counsel Mr Norman Godfrey and the following inconsistencies and omissions were revealed:

• He said in statement dated July 1, 2016 that the last time he did work for the council was in April 2016, this is contrary to his evidence in court that he did not do any work for the council 2016.

• In his statement of July 1, 2016, he told the police that all the cheques he received from the council he had done work for. In his evidence in court he stated that only 7-10 times he did work and only in the divisions Banana Ground, Mile Gully, and Grove Place.

• He said in his July 1, 2016 statement to the police that the cheques shown to him, he had encashed at the Bank of Novia Scotia and paid out the cash to the workers who had done the work.

• In reference to changes between his evidence in court and his July 1, 2016 statement to the police, and questions around who encouraged him to change his account, AF explained thus:

Question: Who encouraged you to come here and change what you are saying in your statement?

Answer: Me, myself and I.


Question: Encouraged yourself?

Answer: To speak the truth.


Question: So you chose not to speak the truth on the 1st July 2016?

Answer: I misunderstood how it was put to me as some invoices and cheques I didn’t encash had my name on them.


Question: At July 1, 2016, you didn’t speak the truth?

Answer: It was for August not July. I did show it to the police in August that some did not have my name on it. I separated it.


Question: August 2017?

Answer: Yes


Question: You agreed earlier that all the cheques shown to you on 31st June 2016 were cheques you agreed you cash and paid money to workers?

Answer: The ones that bear my signature but the others that had my name but not my signature I disowned.


Question: In your statement of 31st August 2017, you did not disown any cheques shown to you?

Answer: Yes, the ones with my name and signature I own.


Re-examination of AF

[119] AF stated that he disowned the invoices from the time he gave his statement to the police. “I disowned invoices with my signature that I did not sign and the cheques bearing my name and not my signature”.


[120] Table 4 depicts some of the fraudulent transactions generated in AF’s name



[121] On a review of Table 4, it is instructive that not a single division that AF testified that he worked in is accounted for. Particularly, given that over $7 million has been paid out in his name by the council on the inducement that it was for bona fide work that he carried out. This table also reveals that consistent with his evidence in court, AF did sometimes encash two cheques per week.


[122] The picture of Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts’ criminal intent is made clear from the documents tendered and admitted into evidence in the name AF as reflected in Table 4. An examination of the listed divisions reveals that AF did not work in the named divisions on the payment vouchers and invoices, neither did he commission anyone to do work. He did not prepare, sign or submit the contractor invoice to the council. These documents were nonetheless certified by the named participants to the scheme, thereby inducing the council to make payments to AF, even though they knew it was not reward for lawful work but rather the fruits of acts of dishonesty perpetrated by them against the council.


[123] If the court accepts the evidence of AF, it serves to bolster the consistent nature of the commonality between his evidence and that of other witnesses as to fact. It was made clear through his testimony that he was Mr Elliott’s trusted friend, demonstrated by him placing two motor vehicles in his name on behalf of Mr Elliott. This serves as confirmation that this witness does not have an interest to serve.


[124] AF’s evidence further corroborates the criminal intent which permeated every aspect of Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts’ conduct in how they operated this criminal enterprise. This is borne out by their conduct through the manner in which they operated in certifying Manchester Parish Council invoices, payment vouchers, cheques and contractor invoices, respectively. Mr Elliott provided these fraudulent cheques to AF either somewhere along the roadway or at the bank. This activity should also be looked at in the context of the evidence of Miss Ramsay who stated that an employee is not allowed to collect a cheque on behalf of a payee. Further, it is contrary to the process where the payee is required to attend the council to collect and sign for these cheques as explained by Miss Ramsay and Mr David Harris in his unsworn statement.


[125] Consistent with reference to his statement under cross-examination, he owned cheques bearing his name and signature and disowned documents shown to him which did not bear his signature. Consistent with the evidence of MM, NH and TM the inescapable inference from the exhibited documents in their names is that, Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts facilitated the processing of fraudulent payment vouchers, Manchester Parish Council and contractor invoices respectively, in the name AF, knowing that AF had not performed these works on behalf of the council, and they did this in furtherance of a criminal purpose. If the court accepts the evidence of AF and the other fact witnesses — who then did Mr Roberts scope out and negotiate work with at the respective sites? What work did he certify as being completed to specification?


[126] Evidently, the actions of Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts placed the council in a disadvantageous position, significant sums of monies which would otherwise be expended on legitimate operational activities of the council were paid over to a criminal enterprise.


Testimony of TB (name withheld to protect the witness), June 21, 2019 — evidence in chief


[127] TB states:

• Between 2011 and 2015 she worked at (names of companies withheld to protect the witness) and then as a legal secretary.

• She has known Sanja Elliott for nine years; they are friends and usually interact mostly by telephone but would run into each other on the streets (maybe about five times).

• She met Mr Elliott sometime in 2011 at Juicy Beef Plaza in Mandeville where he was a customer and spoke again about one week later when they exchanged telephone numbers. Mr Elliott would visit the barber shop upstairs which allowed her to speak to him a lot. During this time she found out from him that he works at the Manchester Parish Council.

• She provided her Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) to Mr Elliott and sometime between 2011 and 2012 she brought to his attention the need for bushing work in Albion within the Knockpatrick Division. He advised her it could be done and she got community members to carry out bushing of the side walks in Kasha Town, Albion. She did bushing work about 2 to 3 more occasions in the same area.

• Upon completion of the work, Mr Elliott gave her the cheque which she changed and disbursed to the workers. She did not submit any documentation to the council for these works, neither did she instruct or cause anyone to submit documentation on her behalf.

• She did not perform any work for the council in 2016, neither did she instruct or cause anyone to do any work on her behalf. She was last engaged by Mr Elliott to carry out work in 2014 and was not owed any money by the council.

• Exhibits 20-24 were shown to her and she stated that she did not prepare the contractor invoices, albeit that her name and TRN were stated thereon. The signature appearing on the invoices is not her signature; she did not submit or cause anyone to submit these, neither did she perform the work described therein or cause anyone to perform these works.

• Shown exhibits 168 and 173 both made payable to her, TB testified that the signature on exhibit 168 was not her signature and that she was not owed any money by the council in respect of exhibit 173. She did not receive a benefit from the cheques.


[128] Table 5 depicts some of the fraudulent transactions generated in TB’s name.




[129] The Crown submits that it is not mere coincidence that like in other instances, Mr Elliott came into possession of TB’s TRN. If TB’s evidence is accepted, the court may find that this formed a part of his modus operandi in preying on the personal data of his friends, using them as conduits to carry out his criminal enterprise to fleece the council of millions of dollars, under the disguise that “purported contractors” were performing legitimate work on behalf of the council.


[130] It is also not mere coincidence that Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts certified the payment vouchers, MPC invoices and contractor invoices authorising payment for work or services purportedly carried out by TB in the divisions of Royal Flat, John’s Hall and Porus. The court will recall that TB testified that the two or three times she did work for the council, this was exclusive to the Knockpatrick Division. The Crown submits that Messrs Elliott, Harris and Roberts’ criminal purpose is demonstrative in the very fact of them signing off on these documents. Particularly, in the case of Mr Elliott the inescapable inference from the cumulative circumstances is that he, being her friend and having regard to the position he occupied, very well knew that his friend TB had not performed these works. The question that should be consistently asked is: With whom did Mr Roberts scope out and negotiate the estimates? It becomes an incredulous assertion that he did, given that in all cases the witnesses consistently stated that they did not perform these works or cause them to be performed; neither did they cause these contractor invoices to be signed on their behalves.


[131] TB was cross-examined at length by learned counsel Mr Godfrey and her testimony was consistent with her statement made to the police. She was not shaken under cross-examination. The Crown commend TB to the court as a witness of truth whose evidence is reliable and is corroborated in material respects by the accounts of other witnesses as to fact previously discussed.


[132] Testimony of TW (name withheld to protect the witness), June 20, 2019 — evidence in chief

• She was employed to (name of company withheld to protect the witness) as a consultant between 2014 and 2016. She testified that she gave her TRN and full name to her uncle Cuthbert Miller. Having provided him with this information, he made a request of her and in furtherance of this, she went to the council to collect a cheque. She presented her national ID and signed for the cheque but she does not recall who gave her the cheque. She encashed it and gave the money to her uncle. She recalls receiving about two more cheques from the council at the request of her uncle which she collected, encashed and handed over the proceeds to him.

• She was never employed to the council between 2014 and 2016, neither did she enter into any contract to perform service or work for the council nor cause anyone to do this on her behalf.

• She did not submit any documentation to the council for work between 2014 and 2016 nor cause anyone to do this on her behalf for work or services performed.

• She was shown exhibits 54-56 and 143 and confirmed her TRN and name on these documents but denied the signature at the bottom/foot of the contractor invoices is her signature. She did not provide the service described therein “to bush road banks and clean drains” or “deliver portable water” nor cause it to be done.

• She does not own a water truck and did not deliver potable water to the Knockpatrick Division as stated on the contractor invoice.


[133] Table 6 shows the fraudulent transactions generated in TM’s name.


TOMORROW: More evidence of the criminal enterprise

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