Three British nationals who were on remand for the past month at HMP Dodds, today pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to committing fraud following their arrival on the island earlier this year.
Michael Akinwale Akingbade, a 33-year-old civil engineer; Joseph Adedapo King, a 30-year-old courier and Mukhtar Mohamed Muctar Abbasheikh, 19, as well as Melissa Latoya Cumberbatch, a self-employed 30-year-old from Carrington Village, St Michael had appeared before Magistrate Douglas Frederick exactly one month ago on the charges.
At the time, they were not required to plead to the indictable charges of dishonestly obtaining one watch each from three different retail establishments, with the intent of permanently depriving the stores of the items by falsely representing that the credit cards which they used were valid forms of payment which the accused were authorized to use.
The trio last month obtained Rolex watches valued at $22,500, $15,485 and $17,300 respectively.
Cumberbatch, the lone female accused, was later granted $15,000 bail. Meanwhile, her three male co-accused asked that their matters be fast-tracked (eliminating a preliminary inquiry before a magistrate). They were then remanded to HMP Dodds.
Today, they appeared in Supreme Court No. 5 before Justice Jacqueline Cornelius. The court heard from Principal Crown Counsel Elwood Watts that Abbasheikh was the one who handled the credit card transactions while the others assisted by hiding the watches.
The prosecutor said that one Rolex watch each was obtained from Diamonds International, Royal Shop and Cartier’s.
In Abbasheikh’s statement to police, he spoke of being forced by a south London gang to participate in the crimes and said threats to hurt him and his family were held over him if he did not comply.
All three British visitors fully cooperated with police during the investigation, Watts told the court.
Attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, QC, asked the court to allow his clients to waive their right to a pre-sentencing report. He said the stolen items had been “recovered in mint condition” and contended that to wait for a pre-sentencing report could mean a further three-to-five months wait that would have no real material bearing on the matter.
On the other hand, Watts was of the view that some type of inquiry should be made about the convicted men before sentencing them. He submitted that if the convicted men were connected to a gang, then “their activities are not as disorganized as it seems”.
Watts said either the Probation Department or the local Interpol office should be able to provide some insight into the men’s lives in England, just as the court did for Barbadian convicts and those from the region.
Pilgrim responded that he did not have an issue with an Interpol report which could be available in a few days, but felt that to wait for a probation report would cause prejudice to his clients which would “far outweigh the value of the report”.
Justice Cornelius remarked that having some knowledge of convicted persons “was an integral part of the sentencing process”.
She therefore ordered the Interpol report, as well as a preliminary investigation from the Probation Department.
“I am not prepared to embark on a sentencing process without that information,” the judge explained.
The matter will come up again next Tuesday.