NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A Haitian man has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to obtain Bahamian citizenship under false pretenses.
Jamesly Fils-Aime. 29, appeared before Senior Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans on Thursday.
Fils-Aime was charged with one count of attempted fraud by false pretense, one county of possession of a false document, one count of uttering a false document and one count of deceit of a public officer.
Prosecutors said Fils-Aime was arrested by immigration authorities on January 28 for illegal landing and had in his possession a passport with the face and name of “Johnny Tannis”.
He was questioned in reference to his citizenship and it was found that the face on the passport did not match the name.
The prosecutor said “Johnny Tannis had left the Bahamas some time ago.”
He was turned over to police who found in addition to the passport, an application for Bahamian status and a birth certificate.
After being interviewed under caution in the presence of an interpreter and revealed his real name.
Fils-Aime reportedly indicated to officers that he gave the false name under the advice of his aunt – who was not named – in order to obtain status.
The court heard that the police investigation left to the Haitian Embassy which confirmed that Fils-Aime had another passport in his real name which he used to enter the country on July 27, 2019.
He pled guilty to all charges.
When given an opportunity to address the court, through a translator, the 29-year-old began to cry as he expressed his regret and apologized for his actions.
“I want to say sorry to the Bahamian community and Haitian community in The Bahamas,” he said.
“…That was not my intention”.
Fils-Aime told the judge that he was studying agriculture in Haiti and was expected to graduate in December.
He said he only came to the Bahamas to visit but he understands that he violated the law.
He noted that his aunt spoke with him and told him to utilize the name to get a document from the Registrar General.
He said he went there with his cousins on two occasion, after which he was able to get a birth certificate.
He also revealed that once he had the birth certificate he also had to send for his father’s birth certificatein Haiti before applying for the Haitian passport, which he received after a month.
Fils-Aime said once he had the passport, he “did not feel comfortable” because all of his diplomas had his own name on it and he was reflecting on returning to Haiti.
He however was stopped by officers before he could do so.
“My heart is breaking to find myself in this position like this,” he said.
“I spent 25 years in school to make it this far…My parents believed in me. No one else believed in me. I’ve never done anything wrong.
“I’m sorry that I made this error. That will never happen again because that was not my intention.”
However, magistrate Vogt-Evans said while she sympathized with Fils-Aime’s predicament, she believes a college educated man should be better informed at The Bahamas’ immigration laws and understand the consequences of his choices.
“This is not just a simple illegal landing or overstaying case,” she declared.
“You would have defrauded the authorities, you had false documents and you would have presented those documents to the authorities and then you would have lied to the authorities in The Bahamas.
“You are aware of the security and health issues that we face. You are aware of the economic strain of foreigners on The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The Bahamas must protect its country. The greatest gift a Bahamian can have is citizenship. You dare to steal that and for that you must be punished.
“The court must send a clear message to would be offenders that that will not be tolerated.”
She insisted that The Bahamas cannot take on “the burden of Haiti.”
The foreign national was sentenced to one-year imprisonment for each of the three fraud counts which will run concurrently and was fined $500 or four months in prison for lying to officials.
He was advised that he has right to appeal the sentence and was remanded to the Bahamas Department of Corrections to serve his time, after which he will have to be deported to his home country.