NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Eighteen people were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court yesterday after police uncovered a major scheme that defrauded the National Insurance Board of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors alleged that the group fraudulently obtained money from the short term benefit assistance program of NIB, knowing they were not qualified for the benefit.
Dion James Dean, 40, of Fresh Creek Andros; Leroy Allen Poitier, 50, Gary Lafleur, 51; Latoya Neely, 44; Shevyonne Neely, 41; Ashanique Neely, 25; Lakeisha Tucker, 43; Gillian Thurston, 40, Kalisa Miller, 26; Takia Smith, 44; Santoine Major, 26; Brian Eugene Cooper, 50; Quentin Rahming, 43; Ray Kenneth Rigby, 32; Jermaine Teiko Evans, 35; Gadville Woodside, 27; and Thio Rolle, 28, appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes.
Dean, a former NIB manager for the Fresh Creek and Nicholls Town Office in Andros, was charged with more than 130 counts including conspiracy to commit fraud by; fraud by false pretenses, forgery, falsification of accounts, and money laundering (acquisition).
He plead not guilty to all the charges.
The other defendants were charged with various counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering (concealing), abetment to commit fraud, and fraud by false pretenses.
Prosecutors allege that the group obtained checks in their name ranging from $500 to $4,290 from the unemployment program.
They all plead not guilty to their respective charges, except for Major, Cooper, Rahming, and Miller, who plead guilty and admitted to receiving the funds fraudulently.
Major plead guilty to fraud and two counts of money laundering.
Rahming plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud and Cooper plead guilty to conspiracy and money laundering.
Prosecutors allege that during an audit, NIB discovered that Cooper and Rahming fraudulently received $4,257 and Major received $4,125.
Miller, who changed her plea later in the day, plead guilty to one count of fraud and two counts of money laundering and admitted to receiving checks totaling $3,081.81
Her attorney said she never worked or lived in Andros but was approached by an “adult and she fell for it.”
She reportedly only received $400 out of the money.
All of the men admitted to cashing the checks, but Major said he only kept $300 and Rahming said he kept $500. They did not tell the court who they gave the rest of the cash to.
Major said he had been approached by a close family member, who asked him for a picture and passport in order to get the check.
He admitted that he was aware that the checks were fraudulent, and he did not apply for the unemployment program.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes chastised the father of one, telling him, “You have to think about consequences…None of this is by accident. It is purely by choice.”
As for Cooper and Rahming, Forbes expressed disappointment that the men were making such decisions at their age.
He said while he understood the economic state of the country, given the global pandemic, that does not excuse-making criminal decisions.
He called the group selfish, adding that if the funds from NIb were depleted, the people who needed it would not be able to receive it.
He ordered all four of the defendants to repay the money by October 30 or face six months one each count at the Bahamas Department of Corrections.
The group that plead guilty was denied bail and advised of their rights to apply for bail in the Supreme Court.
They are all expected to return to court on February 9, 2021, for trial.