Defendants deny involvement in stunning series of burglaries

POSTED: 04/20/12 2:41 PM

Caribbean Gems lost $340,000 worth of jewelry

St. Maarten – “These false accusations have brought shame on my father. I had nothing to do with this,” Bryan Giovanni H. told the Court in First Instance yesterday. But prosecutor Mr. Marleen Overmeer holds H. together with co-defendant Felix D.-L. responsible for four burglaries, two attempted burglaries, firearm possession and membership of a criminal organization. She demanded 5 years and 6 months against Bryan H. and 4 years and 6 months against Felix D.-L. Judge. Mr. Monique Keppels will pronounce her verdict on Wednesday, May 9.

The burglary that stands out in the list of accusations is a heist at Caribbean gems on January 23. On this occasion burglars made a hole in a wall, cracked a safe and took off with $340,000 worth of jewelry. Only part of the loot has been found. Some of the jewelry was found in a hotel room of Bryan H. However, both defendants denied any involvement in the crime.

The prosecution constructed the evidence against the two defendants on phone taps and supporting proof. H. and D.-L. belong according to the prosecution to a five man strong criminal organization led by a man identified in court as Juan C. The role of H. seems to have been mainly that of lookout, while D.-L. is accused of having taken part in some of the actual burglaries.

The first burglaries took place on January 12 in Betty Estate. The first target was the home of a hairdresser. The burglars took electronics and gold and silver jewelry. Next they hit the neighbor’s house where they stole three cameras, jewelry and a Blackberry.

Some of the jewelry was later found in the possession of defendant H., but he told the court he had found the items in a rental car. “I have no knowledge of this,” he said.

The second burglary targeted Cash For Gold. The burglars broke the bars on a window and then cracked a safe. They took $5,000 in cash and $4,000 worth of jewelry. The gang’s biggest score came four days later when they forced their way into Caribbean Gems jewelry store.

On January 31 Philipsburg Liquor store was the target. Here the burglars broke a wall and they destroyed the alarm system. Their attempt to crack the store’s safe failed however; they left tools of their trade, like a crowbar, behind at the crime scene.

The next day there was an attempted burglary in Philipsburg according to the prosecution, but this charge is only based on intercepted phone conversations between the suspects and on the fact that at one o’clock at night the alarm of an unidentified company in the center went off.

H. was arrested that night and the police found a gun wrapped in newspapers in his car. He was also charged with the embezzlement of a police radio.

A separate charge against D.-L. is about a burglary at a home in Hope estate on November 17, 2010. The defendant told the court that he could not remember this, but Judge Keppels pointed out that his fingerprints had been found on the crime scene. The burglar stole jewelry, a camera, a safe, cash and a Sony Playstation.

A witness told investigators that both defendants had been involved in the Caribbean Gems heist. H. maintained that all he had done was give some friends a ride and that he did not know anything about the burglary, or about any of the other burglaries for that matter. His co-defendant also denied all involvement.

Prosecutor Overmeer noted that the phone taps were the red thread in the investigation.

“There are too many coincidences in H.’s story. When I add everything up there is proof for burglary,” she said.

Overmeer referred to the fact that a crowbar that was left behind at cash for gold was traced back to H., that the witness had made detailed statements about the Caribbean Gems-case and that H.’s girlfriend had confessed that her boyfriend had been involved in three burglaries. H. allegedly also received $1, 200 for driving the other gang members around.

The prosecutor asked the court to acquit D.-L. of the attempted burglaries on January 31 and February 1 because the defendant had proof he was not on the island at that time. She also asked to acquit him of membership of a criminal organization.

Mr. Overmeer did not take the charges lightly.

“The impact of these crimes was huge as was the damage to companies and private citizens. I have listened with amazement to H.’s story. It would have become him if he had admitted that he made a grave mistake. But instead you have make things complicated for your father who is a policeman.”

The prosecutor said that D.-L., who has been detained since February 21, has also been arrested for other burglaries that are still under investigation.

Attorney Mr. Shaira Bommel asked the court to acquit her client on all counts with the exception of the gun possession charge. She said that there is no evidence for her client’s involvement in any of the burglaries.

“Being in the neighborhood where a burglary occurs does not automatically mean that my client was involved.”

“About the police radio that was found in my client’s possession,” the attorney said, “There is no evidence for his intention to embezzle the equipment.

Lastly, she remarked: “I am amazed that membership of a criminal organization is even mentioned in the summons.”

Mr. Norissa de la Rosa asked the court to exclude the evidence obtained from the phone taps, claiming it had been obtained unlawfully. She also questioned the skills of the officers that transcribed the phone taps.

“There are concluding and summarizing remarks in these reports,” she said.

They have been translated from Spanish to English. I have asked the prosecutor’s office twice to let me listen to these taps but that has not been granted.”

Mr. De la Rosa asked the court to acquit her client on all counts for lack of convincing evidence and to declare the summons for the 2010 burglary void because it had been issued just two days before the trial.

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