Family members and persons in her community were surprised by Liza Cumberbatch’s involvement in fraud and money-laundering, since they had always seen her as helpful, loving and caring to her parents and three children.
Their views were contained in a pre-sentencing report which was read before Justice Jacqueline Cornelius in Supreme Court No. 2 earlier today. Further, persons who spoke about Cumberbatch said they never considered her to be materialistic.
The 34-year-old Boscobelle, St Peter woman pleaded guilty earlier this year to swindling a retired teacher out of almost $200 000 within one month. She was charged by police and brought before the court on 14 counts of theft and one for money-laundering.
At the time, Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney, the prosecutor, outlined how the victim was at home when he received a telephone call from someone purporting to be his brother, who lives overseas. The person asked to borrow $6 000 to assist with his relocation to Barbados and told the retired teacher to give the funds to a ‘Sonia Best’.
The following day, another call came from the same male caller. This time, the request was for $28 000 by way of a banker’s draft, which was to be made out to Cumberbatch, along with a further $9 000 in cash.
The 81-year-old victim followed the instructions and met ‘Best’ to hand over the draft and the requested cash. Cumberbatch was posing as Sonia Best during the transactions.
Two days later, he handed over another $17 000 in cash after getting another call from his ‘brother.’ He met Cumberbatch, posing as ‘Best’ and handed the funds to her, since she was acting on behalf of the same ‘brother’ overseas.
Believing that the calls were legitimately from his sibling, the old man disbursed more money for each of nine other calls he received. He also handed over a debit and credit card. In total, the victim was defrauded of $192 000.
When the brother came to Barbados in late November 2012 and was questioned about the loans, he denied ever requesting or borrowing the money. That was when the complainant reported the matter to the police. Investigations led to Cumberbatch. In her statement to police, she claimed to have received only $200 from the proceeds.
In the report today, the court heard of an upbringing where both parents were involved. Her mother described her as a quiet and well-behaved child who seldom had to be disciplined. She was also said to have been a compliant and average student at primary and secondary school, never giving reason for her parents to deal with disciplinary matters at the educational institutions.
However, as she got older and had children, Cumberbatch could not hold a full-time job since she spent much of her time at home caring for her autistic son, which created financial challenges for her.
Although Cumberbatch was considered to be at a low risk of reoffending, the probation officer had concerns about her alcohol use and frequent and prolonged unemployment. The convicted woman confessed to using alcohol as a means of dealing with her problems.
Meanwhile, the victim and his wife, who is also a retired teacher, are now out of pocket. They explained that the offences have significantly affected their standard of living as well as their plans for travelling and participating in social events during their retirement. They described it all as being “a dream” now since their savings have been wiped out.
Justice Jacqueline Cornelius adjourned the matter and a date is to be set for Cumberbatch to return to court. She has spent 834 days so far on remand at HMP Dodds.
Principal Crown Counsel Elwood Watts appeared today on behalf of the Crown.