Four former Shopsmart employees charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of company merchandise in a scheme that reportedly stretched back to January 2018 were granted $10,000 bail today.
The $50,407 in goods allegedly stolen between January 1, 2018 and April this year, included bottled water, sausages, sanitary napkins, corned beef, juices, milk, shampoo, toothpaste and cat food.
The lone female among the accused, warehouse assistant/driver Alicia Shontelle Watson, 38, of Orange Hill, St James is jointly charged with three former coworkers – forklift driver Dane Larry Oneal Gibbons, 41, of Clevedale Road, Black Rock, St Michael; technician Stephan Orlando Lashley, 30, of Yearwood Road, Black Rock, St Michael; and driver/porter Andre Ricardo Catline, 30, of Block 1E Division Drive, Eden Lodge, St Michael.
They were not required to plead to the indictable charges when they appeared before Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes in the District ‘D’ Magistrates’ Court this morning.
The accused are also facing separate theft charges, but were similarly not required to enter pleas to the offences which were alleged to have occurred in the District ‘E’ jurisdiction. These charges are also connected to the same business.
Catline is accused of stealing a $1,699 television; Gibbons, a $999 freezer and two packs of chicken worth $27.98 and Lashley a $399 television, 13 alcohol beverages worth $38.02, four cans of soda worth $6.20 and 24 rolls of toilet paper worth $27.98.
Watson has been charged with stealing two televisions worth $538, four juices, milk, six barbeque sauces, 24 boosters and two boxes of sanitary napkins totalling $906.97
The accused were granted bail after their attorneys and the prosecutor made submissions before Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes.
Sergeant Theodore McClean urged the District ‘D’ Magistrates’ Court to rule against bail based on the nature and seriousness of the offence, the need to protect society including business owners and in light of the breach of trust placed in them.
He argued that while none of the four was known to the law courts “they have started on the pretty high end of the scale”.
McClean added: “Even though counsel may say they are mere allegations, these are serious allegations for people who are not known. In this environment there is a need to protect employers who stand to lose their investments from such behaviour.”
But defence counsel Alvan Babb who represented Watson, charged that most of the objections of the prosecutor do not fall under the Bail Act. He said the only ground of objection which held any weight was the nature and seriousness of the offence but he argued that alone ought not to prevent his client from being considered for bail.
“The charges are offences against property, as it relates to items so the need to protect society ought not to be considered on the application of bail.
“There are thousands of business owners in this country. If everybody who came on a charge against a business owner is denied bail then Dodds would be full, ten times over. It is a mere allegation and to ask the court to deny bail on the ground of a breach of trust is to say that they have breached that trust,” Babb told the Chief Magistrate.
He further submitted that in these Covid-19 times the risk of remanding persons to prison should be taken into consideration. The lawyer said his client was a mother of minor children and came before the court with “clean hands, a clean slate, had no previous convictions” and was willing to adhere to any conditions to bail.
Attorney Neville Reid represented Lashley in association with counsel Shadia Simpson. Reid stated that the prosecution did not touch on one of the single fundamentals of bails which was whether an accused would attend court if given their pretrial liberty.
“I have not heard the prosecution say one-word to suggest otherwise. Bail is a right.”
Reid also urged the court not to “blur the lines” between bail and sentencing as that was exactly what the prosecution was doing when it put forward the breach of trust submission.
“That can only be established, breach of trust, after you have heard the evidence,” he said.
The attorney further stated that unless there was “a miracle” the accused had already lost their jobs and as such the need to protect society submission should be discarded. His client, he said, was before the court for the first time and at this time the charge against him was “still a mere allegation” and he was to be considered innocent until proven otherwise.
Accused Catline who had worked for Shopsmarts for the past six years was represented by attorney Glenroy Goddard and was put forward as an “ideal” candidate for bail as he was not known to the court and was the sole breadwinner for his family.
Defense counsel Derek Boyce represented Gibbons. He too submitted that his client had been a model employee having worked for the company for 14 years. The accused, he said, was a good candidate for bail as he had no prior convictions and would abide by any bail conditions from the court.
Taking all the submissions from the defence and the prosecution into consideration Chief Magistrate Weekes granted the accused $10,000 bail each which they secured with one surety.
They will make their next appearance in the District ‘E’ Holetown Magistrates’ Court on
In the meantime they are each on a daily 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, which is separate to the Government-imposed curfew.