Friday, July 18, 2003
– A 35 year-old employee of the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) who has been charged with stealing $18 million dollars from the society’s Ocho Rios branch, was yesterday remanded in custody when he appeared in the St Ann’s Bay Resident Magistrate’s Court.
Roxroy Mendez of a Mansfield Heights address in Ocho Rios, St Ann is scheduled to return to court on July 22. Mendez, who has been employed to VMBS for 17 years, was on Tuesday slapped with four counts of larceny as a servant, following intense investigations by the police.
In a release issued by VMBS Wednesday afternoon, the bank said customer accounts were not affected by the suspected fraudulent activities.
“VMBS confirms that a supervisor at the Ocho Rios branch of the Society has been detained in connection with suspected fraudulent activities at that location. There is no evidence that the account of any customer has been affected,” said the release over the signature of Frank Harrison, senior vice president for operations at VMBS.
In court yesterday, the prosecution alleged that between 1999 and 2003, Mendez — who held the position of accounts supervisor with responsibility for foreign exchange — devalued the society’s stipulated exchange rates on a daily basis, without the knowledge of his employers. He reportedly later transferred the inflated amount to his personal accounts, held jointly with relatives, after which the correct amount was later transferred to VMBS’ account.
Detective Fitz Bailey from the fraud squad told the court that the amount involved was £141,970 and US$166,000, which amounted to approximately J$18 million. He said during their investigations, the accused was questioned and when his access number was identified, he was charged.
Bailey said a joint account at the Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) in the name of Mendez and a relative, in which $6 million was being kept, was emptied on Wednesday, a day after Mendez was charged. Bailey successfully used this information as leverage to object to bail being granted to the accused.
“My concern is that he was arrested Tuesday and by Wednesday $6 million was taken out of the account,” RM Yvonne Brown told Mendez’ lawyer, H Charles Johnson, in denying bail. RM Brown added that based on the strength of the allegations and the fear that the accused may interfere with the case, she was not prepared to grant him bail.
Johnson had requested bail on the premise that Mendez was bothered by hypertension and his client’s family members had given him instructions to “proceed in a certain manner”.
The lawyer also told the court that the removal of the $6 million was not an attempt to interfere with justice but “to assist the course of justice”.
“Six million dollars disappeared from the account and this is going to assist in the course of justice?” the RM asked.
“The council has information where the $6 million went, your honour,” Johnson told the judge.
“But the money doesn’t belong to your client,” RM Brown replied.
“The $6 million dollars is gone nowhere; it was taken out for the defence to take a certain course; all funds it is alleged my client has at VMBS are still there,” the lawyer argued.
But Detective Bailey refuted this claim and told the court that only £40,010 and US$41,491 remained in the accounts at Victoria Mutual.
Johnson pleaded to the judge to grant his client bail “under whatever condition” she saw fit, offering to surrender his travel documents. The RM however refused.
“I take your health into consideration but also the fact that you have been there for 17 years and you used your position to defraud VMBS; that’s a very serious matter; it’s a breach of trust. But I’m particularly concerned about that $6 million. That $6 million should never have been removed,” RM Brown said in remanding the accused in custody.
– Carl Gilchrist