PHILIPSBURG–The appeal case of former InselAir St. Maarten’s Station Manager Alonzo Alfred Hassell (52), who was found guilty by the Court of First Instance in July 2018 of defrauding the airline of US $67,144 in mid-2016, was postponed by the Court of Appeals until August 21, because the suspect did not have a lawyer present.
The Lesser Court found it legally and convincingly proven that former InselAir employees Hassell and then Ticket Office Manager Stephanie Badeau Brissett had committed embezzlement and money laundering independently from each other.
The station manager was sentenced to nine months in prison, six of which were suspended, on three years’ probation.
He was also sentenced of payment of the maximum amount of NAf. 50,000 in damages. In case of non-compliance he would have to spend 365 days in prison. Hassell was also ordered to pay the legal fees involved with this legal procedure, which were estimated at NAf. 3,263.
During the Court hearing, the Prosecutor had called upon the Court of First Instance to sentence Hassell to six months, three of which were to be suspended, on two years’ probation, and payment of damages.
The Judge found it proven that Hassell had defrauded his former employer out of $67,144. The money was obtained from ticket sales. Part of the revenues was not deposited in the company’s bank account but disappeared into the manager’s pockets. The station manager had used the money to pay off his debts.
The Lesser Court imposed a sentence higher than the Prosecutor’s demand, because he had been in a managerial position and had abused his responsibilities and his employer’s trust in him. The Judge said he imposed a more severe penalty, as the sentence should be a signal to society that such acts could not be tolerated.
Attorney Safira Ibrahim’s pleadings on behalf of her clients were dismissed by the Court of First Instance. She had contested the embezzled amounts, which, she had claimed, were considerably lower.
The lawyer also had made an appeal to the Court to consider her client’s personal circumstances and had called for community service for Hassell. She also had pleaded with the Court not to award damages as in her opinion the claimed amounts could not be proven.
Ibrahim also represents Hassell in the appeal case, but because she also was involved in two civil cases on Thursday, had requested a postponement of Hassell’s hearing, which was scheduled on the same day.
Hassell informed the Court that he had filed for appeal because he wanted a lesser, or different punishment, and said he was willing to continue with the case without a lawyer present.
After a brief recess, the Joint Court announced the postponement. It stated that the replacement of attorney Ibrahim by a colleague had “apparently” not been properly arranged. This led the Court to postpone Thursday’s hearing, as the defendant should not be duped by the absence of a lawyer.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/87571-inselair-fraudster-appeal-rescheduled-for-august-21