BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE first case for the new Criminal Assizes, which officially began Tuesday, (Jan. 18) at the Basseterre High Court, is that of Mandefro Roberts, Amare Browne and Esha Browne who were jointly charged with fraud and conspiracy to defraud.
In this case the prosecution team is being led by Crown Counsel Garth Wilkin who is being supported by the Director of Public Prosecution Paulina Hendrickson.
The prosecution team alleges that on February 4, 2009 at the St. Kitts Royal Beach Casino in Frigate Bay, the accused obtained by fraud monies to the tune of US$800.
In terms of the second count, conspiracy to defraud, the prosecutor alleges that on the said date the three accused had engaged in a joint enterprise to obtain the money from the casino by presenting counterfeit currency in exchange for it.
The prosecutor claimed that Roberts gave the counterfeit currency to Esha Browne, a cashier at the casino at the time of the incident, who paid him the US$800 for the currency exchange.
Three witnesses who were working at the casino during the time of the currency exchange have so far testified. The first witness was Shellburn Diane Prince, who was the Co-Manager of the Cage and Count Department. She told the court that her duties entailed the handling of cash, overseeing procedures and ensuring cashiers perform their assigned duties.
Prince explained that the cashiers’ duties involved customer transactions, relieving slot tickets, performing marker transactions, conducting foreign currency transactions and to check for counterfeit currency, adding that the casino refers to all monies not of US currency as foreign currency.
She further explained that to ascertain the validity of currencies, cashiers would use a counterfeit pen or black light.
The Co-Manager confirmed that Esha Browne was a cashier at the casino but could not recall if she had worked on the day in question.
In cross-examining Prince, Chesley Hamilton, who is representing Esha Browne, asked the Co-Manager what process is being conducted at the end of a cashier’s shift.
“At the end of the shift the cash is checked and verified by the cashier then the supervisor, then the main bank cashier,” she said.
Roberts is being represented by Barrister-at-Law Hesketh Benjamin and Senior Counsel Dr. Henry Browne while Amare Browne is self-represented.
Benjamin also cross-questioned Prince. He asked from what year was she employed at the casino, to which she said 2003.
He also asked her if Roberts was working at the casino or if she recalled seeing him there, and she replied “no” to both questions.
In response to the Jury Foreman’s question of whether or not cameras were in the casino, Prince said, “There are cameras that monitor the area where Esha Browne had the transactions.”
The second witness that took the stand was Assistant Supervisor Collette Williams, who told the court that she and a number of cashiers, including Esha Browne, had reported to work at 6:00 p.m. on the day the incident occurred.
Williams said Esha Browne had worked at “window one” and that she did not have any work-related conversations with her that night.
She also testified that when cashiers end their shift she would back check their cash flow to ensure it matches what they stated.
Cross-questioning her, Dr. Browne asked if there were any inconsistencies when she had finished her tour of duty, and she replied in the negative.
The third witness, Soubrena Daniel, who has been a cashier at the casino for the past six years, testified that when she reported to work on February 5, 2009, she counted the cash in her cash draw and saw some strange bills among the US$100 denomination.
Daniel said she took the bills to a back section of the casino, marked them and found that they were counterfeit because they immediately turned black instead of brown.
She said told the court that each cashier is assigned a batch number and they would have to affix their signature to the strap of money, and Esha Browne’s signature was on other straps in the drawer.
Daniel further told the court that she gave the counterfeit money to her Supervisor.
The trial continued yesterday (Jan.20).