Appeals court confirms cab driver’s human smuggling conviction

POSTED: 01/3/12 4:06 PM

St. Maarten – The Common Court of Justice handed down several verdicts on 2011’s last day of business. Cab driver Erol Montgomery Bolan, 65, saw his conviction to 4 years and 10 months for human smuggling and membership of a criminal organization.

Bolan was involved in transports of illegals on August 14, in several attempts to transport illegals from St. Maarten to the US Virgin Islands and in a transport of ten Cubans on November 14. The prosecution described Bolan during the trial in April as a major player in the local human smuggling business and demanded 7 years imprisonment, but Judge mr. M. Keppels sentenced the cab driver to 4 years and 10 months. Solicitor General mr. A.C. van der Schans asked the Common Court to confirm the sentence. Bolan contested on appeal his alleged membership of a criminal organization – seeking a lower sentence, but his bid failed.

The Common Court also confirmed the 5-year prison sentence of 23-year-old Kerry Julian Wilson for two armed robberies he committed in April and May of last year.

Wilson robbed a man of his gold chain on April 11, and on May 7 he stole a backpack containing $500 from another man who was staying at Joshua’s Guesthouse on Back Street. In both cases, Wilson used a gun to threaten his victims.

Alescio Elvio Violenus and Julio Encarnacion Vargas also pleaded in vain for lower sentences to the Common Court. Both defendants were involved in a large number of violent armed robberies in 2010. The most notorious case was the robbery on October 16 in Mullet Bay whereby 45-year-old Dutchman Wouter-Jan Romeijn lost his life. Encarnacion Vargas, 23, was not involved in that particular case, but he took part in a large number of other robberies. Violenus, 22, was sentenced to 19 years on September 29; Encarnacion Vargas got 15 years and 4 months.

A third defendant, Stevie Adolphus Richardson, 25, is currently serving 22 years and 10 months for his involvement in these crimes. His appeal is scheduled for February 29.

A fourth defendant, Omar “Chucky” Nelson, was sentenced to 18 years in September. Nelson escaped from prison in March and stayed 162 days on the lam. One of the effects of his escape is that he was sentenced in absentia and that the 14-day term to file an appeal expired before he was caught again. His sentence became therefore already irrevocable.

Roberto Francisco Gumbs and Isidro Eddison Josepha were the only two defendants that got something out of their appeal. Gumbs and Josepha were sentenced on September 21 to11 years and 14 years and 6 months respectively for their role in the kidnapping and torturing of the Israeli drug dealer Nael Awad on December 16 of 2010.

The defendants were also sentenced for an attempt at kidnapping a man called Murray in Pelican Key on January 3 of last year, but the Common Court acquitted both men of this charge for lack of evidence.

Josepha saw his lengthy sentence cut to 10 years and 6 months, while Gumbs saw his punishment decrease to 8 years and 6 months.

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