PHILIPSBURG–The owner of a driving school was sentenced by the Court of First Instance on Thursday to a suspended prison sentence with community service for falsifying a number of medical declarations on behalf of students. Rene Etienne Arrindell (57) was found guilty of forging and using a number of false medical statements, which are required for first-time applicants for a driver’s licence, between March 2016 and March 2017.
For this crime he was sentenced according to the Prosecutor’s demand to six months suspended, on three years’ probation and 180 hours of community service.
His students paid US $20-25 for each of these declarations, which carried stamps in the name of Dr. Arrindell, who is no relative of the defendant, and his forged signature. At least 13 forged documents were made up and used, the Prosecutor said.
The driving-school operator, who was not present for his trial and was not represented by a lawyer, denied the allegations. He had told the police he did not do business with Dr. Arrindell, but with Dr. Bryson. He later told the police that a man from St. Thomas had arranged the documents for him, but the man’s alleged name of “Stanley Watskin” could not be found in the Civil Registry or in the airport’s registration system.
The proprietor of Rene’s Driving School was sentenced in 2005 to payment of a $5,000 fine, also for forgery.
According to the Prosecutor, Arrindell, who has been a driving instructor for 38 years, had given driving lessons to a large number of students. These also needed to be physically and mentally fit to operate a vehicle.
“Arrindell, however, does not seem to consider this a very important requirement. That is why he has made the medical declarations by himself,” the Prosecutor said.
The fraud was unveiled after Dr. Arrindell discovered that someone had submitted a false declaration. The doctor filed a report and showed his own official stamp which differed from the one used on the forged document. All statements submitted to the Civil Registry Department by the driving-school proprietor also proved to be false.
The Prosecutor said Arrindell offered one package to his students, consisting of all the paperwork required for the driving test, the theoretical exam and the medical declaration. However, none of his students were actually examined by a medical doctor, not even by their own family doctor.
The forms in themselves were not false, the Prosecutor stated, but were filled in by Arrindell or others and provided with fake stamps and signatures, after which the forged documents were submitted to the Civil Registry.
The Prosecutor rejected Arrindell’s statements as “unbelievable” because Dr. Bryson had not been practising medicine in St. Maarten for more than six years and because Mr. Watskin was nowhere to be found.
“I do not know his motive [to commit fraud – Ed.],” the Prosecutor said. “Possibly he considered it easier and cheaper this way, but he wants to pin it on somebody else.”
The Judge fully agreed with the Prosecutor’s opinion and found it proven that Arrindell had made and had used the forged medical declarations. This was based on statements of witnesses who had said that Arrindell had made all the arrangements and had filled in all paperwork for them. The defendant’s statements were dismissed as being “nonsense” and “contradictory.”
“Unsuitable people may have been sent on the road and doctors have also suffered. You cannot do that in this function,” the Judge said of the driving instructor’s crime.