Fall-out from Brooks Tower investigation: “Unico was a company where people paid for residence permits”

POSTED: 05/25/12 2:02 PM

St. Maarten – Wyesha Gergian A. worked as an underpaid office assistant for Unico Management Services in Cole Bay when she got caught in the cross hairs of the Brooks Tower Accord criminal investigation in January 2011. Unico is a company where people pay to get their residence permit, A. told the Court in First Instance on Wednesday. The prosecution demanded a 6-month conditional prison sentence against the 37-old defendant, with 3 years of probation and 240 hours of community service for making fake employers affidavits and fake labor contracts for Unico-customers.
While A. is a small cog in the wheel of fraud and deception that came to live through the opportunities offered through the Brooks Tower Accord, her court case revealed startling details about the way Unico fleeced its customers and fooled government agencies like the labor office.
Unico Management Services is a company owned by A.’s former employer Josane Rosemarie Antoline E. who will appear in court on June 27. Basically, this company found people who needed an employer’s affidavit and/or a labor contract that enabled them to apply for a temporary residence permit under the Brooks Tower Accord.
The defendant said in court that the work was carried out in the house of her employer in Cole Bay, where she filled out employer’s affidavits for customers. Her employer had an agreement with Eric Samuel, the owner of Kazan Construction to register people on his payroll for a fee of $400 per name. Investigators found 30 names on the Kazan-payroll of people who never worked there – representing a $12,000 fee for the company.
At Unico management services, A. told the court on Wednesday, people paid “between $700 and $900” to be put on the payroll as plumbers or painters “without actually working there.” The company gave its customers a receipt for the money they paid. According to Wyesha A. this was done “to give them the impression that they were getting a residence permit.”
The prosecution found several Unico-customers who had paid between $735 and $1,500 for their paperwork. One man even paid $1,500 twice – once “to help him,” once “to pay the correct taxes,” – plus an additional $900 for the work permit.
The defendant was arrested together with her employer on January 21, 2011 – the day when investigators also raided the Brooks Tower offices on Illidge Road. She was released on January 31 and found herself out of employment. The part-time job for Unico paid $300 a month; now the defendant makes some money by babysitting, she told the court.
Prosecutor Mr. Manon Ridderbeks charged A. with forgery and fraud, but acquitted her of human smuggling, because she did not gain any profits from processing customers beyond her meager salary. While the defendant made extensive statements under interrogation by the police, she remained evasive during the court hearing. mr. Ridderbeks however found enough proof in the witness statements the prosecution obtained from victims of the Unico-practices. “The defendant said that she thought it was not legal what they were doing at Unico, but she did what she was told to do.”
mr. Ridderbeks took into account that the defendant found herself in a weak and dependent economic position. “On her salary she could not make ends meet.”
Wyesha A. even paid her own employer $500 to arrange her own residence permit. “Apparently she is allowed to be here,” the prosecutor remarked, noting that the defendant after ten days in custody had not been handed over to immigration for deportation to her native Guyana. “She must feel that what she has done is not okay, but prison time does not add anything in this case.”
The prosecutor demanded a 6-month conditional prison sentence with 3 years of probation and 240 hours of community service.
Attorney mr. Brenda Brooks agreed with the prosecutor about the acquittal for human smuggling and on foregoing an unconditional prison sentence. But the attorney asked the court to acquit her client of all charges. “The big fish are not tackled. Only one man obtained a work permit through Unico. Did my client know what Kazan and Unico were doing? Is she allowed to refuse instructions from her employer? Does she have to pay for this? I don’t see what she did.”
mr. Ridderbeks said that the only relevant question is whether the court believes the witnesses, or the statements the defendant made in court.
Judge mr. Monique Keppels will pronounce her verdict on June 13.

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