Casino cashier fails to establish her innocence

POSTED: 06/22/14 11:10 PM

Court confirms 2013 verdict for embezzlement and filing false report to police

St. Maarten – It was déjà vu yesterday in the Court in First Instance for Ruby Valencia Fernandez, a former cashier at the casino in the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. In August of last year the court sentenced her to 3 months imprisonment, with one month suspended, for stealing from the casino and for filing a false complaint about a robbery to the police. Because the defendant was not present in court last year, she filed in vain opposition against the verdict. The court however confirmed the earlier ruling.

Attorney Brenda Brooks said that her client had filed opposition because she disagreed with the way her attorney at the time – Geert Hatzmann – had defended her in her absence by practically offering a confession to the court. However, the court contested this argument: “The attorney actually asked for an acquittal last year.”

Fernandez worked as a cashier as the in-house casino in the hotel in 2010. On February 28 of that year, she claimed that two dark men had entered the place around 2 p.m. and robbed her of close to $2,700. Video footage from the hotel however showed that no dark men had entered or left the casino around that time.

Nevertheless, the now 48-year-old Fernandez told the court that she came back from her country of origin Colombia to clear her name in court. Confronted with statements about the video footage, the woman said: “I do not know what happened, but I do know what happened to me.”

Prosecutor Tineke Kamps said that the defendant had filed a report about an armed robbery. “Both entrances to the casino are monitored by cameras and there is nothing to see on the video that tallies with the report. That is sufficient: the defendant does not speak the truth.”

The prosecutor said that, given the fact that the defendant does not have a lengthy residence status on the island, she would not ask the court to impose community service and leave it at a demand of 3 months imprisonment, with one month suspended and 2 years of probation.

Attorney Brooks claimed that there are actually four entrances to the small casino and that they are not all covered with cameras. “The cameras could also have shown that she took money from the cash register, but we do not have that evidence,” she said.

Referring to some other court cases that ended with completely conditional sentences, Brooks asked the court to review her client’s verdict and bring it down to a completely conditional sentence.

The court however followed the prosecution’s demand and ruled that there is proof for both charges. A map of the casino shows that there are not several but just two entrances to the casino. Nobody has seen the men who, according to the cashier, had robbed her. “You have cheated your employer; they must be able to trust their employees. Your false report about the robbery has given the police extra work.”

The court confirmed the earlier verdict and terminated the suspension of the defendant’s pretrial detention.

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