Two Jamaicans, Denise Turpin, 28, and Noel George, Richards, 31, were last Wednesday among four persons sentenced to jail terms ranging from six to 15 months for ATM-card fraud in the Court of First Instance in Philipsburg, St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles.
Turpin was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment but eight of those months were made conditional. Because she had already been in custody for 99 days prior to her conviction, she should soon be released and deported back to Jamaica. Richards, who has already been deported, was, in absentia, also sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment.
The two Jamaicans and two others, Nigerian Joseph Armstrong, 38, and Frenchwoman Myriam Bedajoui, 28, were accused of defrauding banks on St. Maarten of US$25,000. Judge H.A.C Smid considered the charges serious. "It's quite a plague and on other islands punishments of up to three years are not unsual," he said.
Prosecutors considered Armstrong, who claimed to be in real estate, and Bedajoui, a psychology student, to be the instigators of the scam. They supplied the Jamaicans with ATM cards and corresponding PIN codes. In early March, Turpin and Richards went to different ATMs and used the cards. In a statement given to police, Richards believed he would get US$5,000 as a reward for his 'work'.
Turpin was called as a witness before the court heard the case. She claimed that Armstrong, whom she knew as 'Mike', paid for her ticket and hotel and gave her the false ATM cards. She used those cards to collect US$1,500 a day from the ATMs and turned all the money over to Armstrong.
After police arrested Turpin and Richardson on March 6, Armstrong and Bedajoui fled from French St. Martin to nearby Anguilla by boat. However, while there they were mysteriously arrested and returned to Dutch St. Maarten.
Defence attorney B.G. Hofman, who represented Armstrong and Bedajoui, tried desperately get his clients acquitted, claiming that "Turpin and Richards took money out of the cards and now they try to claim that my clients played a role in it. The prosecution only has Turpin's word for it and that statement is not truthful."
Smid, however, ruled that there was ample evidence of Armstrong's and Bedajoui's involvement. Police had confiscated Armstrong's laptop and memory stick. The memory stick contained credit card numbers and PIN codes that corresponded with the cards found in the possession of Turpin and Richards.
Armstrong was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, five of them conditional, and Bedajoui to 12 months' imprisonment with six months conditional. Both convicts will also be on three years' probation. They each have two weeks to appeal their sentences. Turpin will not appeal.