Whatsapp fraud? - Prosecutors outline how platform was allegedly used in multimillion-dollar crime
A prosecutor yesterday outlined how two officials at the Manchester Parish Council allegedly used Whatsapp, the Internet-based messaging platform, to orchestrate a fraudulent scheme that has defrauded the Government of $95 million and counting.
The disclosure came in the Manchester Parish Court as the two officials, deputy superintendent in charge of works Sanja Elliot, and Kendale Roberts, a temporary work overseer at the parish council, along with 27-year-old carpenter Dwayne Sibbles, faced a slew of additional charges.
According to prosecutors, Elliott and Sibbles have already been slapped with close to 50 additional counts of obtaining money by means of false pretences and conspiracy to defraud. Elliot and Roberts are also facing fresh counts of forgery and uttering forged documents as investigators revealed that the scope of the fraudulent scheme has ballooned from $9.5 million, when it was first uncovered, to more than $95 million.
Investigators told The Gleaner that they expect to make additional arrests.
In outlining the allegations against the three men, prosecutors said the names, as well as the taxpayer registration numbers (TRNs) of several persons who previously worked for the Manchester Parish Council were used to create scores of fictitious payment vouchers.
It is alleged that Elliott sent the information to Roberts via Whatsapp with instructions to prepare payment vouchers for work that was never done.
"All of this evidence was extracted from devices taken from the three men," one prosecutor explained.
"When investigators contacted the individuals [whose names appeared on the payment vouchers], they were unaware of the work shown in the document," one prosecutor explained after the court hearing.
Sibbles was the person who allegedly cashed the cheques.
Roberts was arrested on Monday for conspiracy to defraud and breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act and made his first court appearance yesterday. He was granted bail in the sum of $3 million and ordered to surrender his travel documents to the police.
As a condition of his bail, the temporary works overseer was ordered to report to the Williamsfield Police Station three times a week, and a stop order has been placed on him at the ports. Elliott and Sibbles had their bails extended and the three are scheduled to return to court on November 16.