Wed | Apr 26, 2017

Jamaica Teachers' Association reveals how stolen funds bought high-end properties

Published:Wednesday | July 22, 2015 | 7:25 AMLivern Barrett

Within a seven-month period, the man accused of defrauding the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) of approximately $95 million was able to acquire three properties valued at $64 million without a mortgage, despite earning an annual salary of $1.5 million, the teachers’ union has claimed in court documents.

JTA President Doran Dixon, in a sworn affidavit, charged that the three properties, all located in St Andrew, were among six parcels of real estate acquired by alleged fraudster former JTA accounts clerk Marlon Francis since 2010 and registered to him, his mother, Margaret Creary, and his aunt Althea Ennis.

The affidavit was filed in a civil suit the JTA brought against Francis, Creary, and Ennis as well as City Lights Imports – a company operated by Francis’ former girlfriend, Kedene Chambers – seeking to gain control of the properties as part of its quest to recover the $95 million allegedly defrauded by its former employee.

It claims that the first property – located along Dupont Avenue in Red Hills Gardens, St Andrew – was acquired at a cost of $12.5 million and was registered in the names of Marlon Francis and Margaret Creary on January 30, 2013.

The second property, located in Chancery Hall, St Andrew, and acquired at a cost of $20 million, was registered in the same names less than three months later on March 14, Dixon’s affidavit charged.

The third property, located in Queen Hill, also in St Andrew, was registered in Creary’s name on July 2, 2013, after being acquired for $32 million, the document claims.

In addition, the teachers’ union said its investigations found that another property, located in Angels Estate, St Catherine, which was registered in Creary’s name on November 14, 2012, “was acquired by way of a gift while, simultaneously, an outstanding mortgage of $1.1 million was paid off.”

The JTA said its search also revealed that properties located in Keystone Farms, St Catherine – valued at $2 million – and Coopers Hill, St Andrew, (no price given) were registered in Francis’ name, as well as a 1994 motor car and several bank accounts.

Court documents show that City Lights, represented by Chambers, admitted receiving money from Francis but said it was not aware that the funds were stolen and sought to explain that it believed the funds came from a used-car business he was operating.

But in urging presiding judge Bryan Sykes to order all three to turn over properties in their possession, the JTA argued that “at all times”, Creary was an unemployed housewife with insufficient resources to purchase any of the properties registered in her name and that her son was the source of the money used to acquire them.

However, in their defence, Creary and Ennis denied receiving any money from Francis or receiving any funds stolen from the JTA and challenged the union to prove its claim. Without providing details, the women also denied claims that they did not have sufficient resources to purchase the properties.

After hearing both sides, Sykes ordered the women and City Lights Imports to turn over the properties, pointing to inadequacies in their defence.

However, the order has been stayed as all three defendants have been granted leave to appeal the ruling.

Francis is still being sought by the Fraud Squad for his alleged role in the fraud, but he is believed to have fled the island.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com