PHILIPSBURG–A 52-year-old man suspected of having swindled nine persons out of US $29,489 in total was sentenced to 180 days in prison, 84 of which were suspended, on two years’ probation. He was also found guilty of money laundering, on Wednesday.
Defendant Franklin Sint Jago, who pleaded guilty to the charges, will also have to pay damages to three of his victims, who were present at the August 14 hearing, the Judge announced.
He was ordered to pay material damage of $14,301 to one of these victims, $1,300 to another and $2,100 to a third person.
Between October 1, 2018, and February 22, 2019, the defendant robbed at least nine persons of their money by taking a false identity and by what the Prosecutor’s Office said were “cunning tricks” and a “web of fabrications.”
“I know that he has taken money from other people and it hurts me because I work hard for my money. He is a wicked man and I would like to visit him in prison so I can look at him in his face,” one of the victims said during the investigation.
Contrary to the truth the suspect had told his victims that he would be able to render them a wide range of different (government) services for a fee.
For instance, he had posed as an Immigration officer claiming that he could arrange admission papers and residence documents. Others he had told he could arrange a passport and a driver’s licence. He had also promised to arrange apartments for several persons and bus permits. Another person he had told he could arrange a Canadian visa because he said he had worked in the Canadian embassy.
According to the Court, the defendant had abused the trust placed in him by people who were in difficult circumstances and further increased their problems.
“He posed as an Immigration officer who would arrange papers for a person who wanted to visit his dying father. He borrowed money from a retired acquaintance and lied that he would repay the amount. He claimed to work for the government and promised to help various people with residency status, driver’s licence and visa. He would help a single mother and her son with housing and a taxi van and another homeless young man with living quarters,” the Judge said.
The suspect had tricked these “vulnerable, hardworking” persons out of their money – destined for official documents, a house or other means of existence – and had used these for his own existence, without worrying about the damage he had caused to others.
Sint Jago has a medical problem for which he needs to undergo surgery in Colombia. He was not present to hear the Judge render the verdict as he had already travelled to the South American country for the procedure, his lawyer Shaira Bommel explained.
He had used the illegally obtained sums of money for his own cost of living and to pay his medical expenses. “Financing one’s own existence in the upper world with money from the underworld, is indeed something the legislator wanted to combat with its anti-money laundering law provisions,” the Judge stated in also considering money-laundering proven.
During the hearing, the suspect told the Court that he wanted to focus on his physical recovery first and only then start looking for work to compensate the injured parties.
“A firm prison sentence is warranted for this suspect who leaves a trail of damage and only wants to make an effort to compensate for that damage after safeguarding his own interests,” the Judge said of the defendant, who had spent 96 days in pre-trial detention.