Bail scandal! - Fraudulent land title used as surety for murder accused; concerns document was used repeatedly
A probe ordered by the nation's chief prosecutor, Paula Llewellyn, has found that a St Catherine man used a fraudulently obtained land title to secure bail for a man who was convicted of murder in absentia after he absconded midway his trial, law enforcement sources have revealed.
There are concerns, too, that James Alphonso Bailey may have also used the same title at the Supreme Court and the St Andrew Parish Court to post bail for a number of persons charged with violent crimes, including shooting.
The Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force confirmed yesterday that Bailey was formally charged on Tuesday with forgery, uttering forged documents, attempting to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to deceive, and making a false declaration.
"We will continue our investigations to see if he has used the forged documents to make the same misrepresentation to bail other persons," head of the OCID, Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, told The Gleaner.
The shocking allegation comes amid growing concerns about the number of persons being charged with murder and other violent crimes while on bail.
Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions, described the allegations as serious and had a guarded warning for the "competent authorities".
"I hope that the competent authorities who deal with making sure that the integrity of the processes surrounding bail will take heed and see if there is further need to enhance the processes," Llewellyn told The Gleaner.
Police investigators say that James Bailey used an elaborate scheme to assume the identity of a legitimate land owner in St Thomas identified as Kenneth Walker. As part of the scheme, investigators said that he obtained a driver's licence and utility bill in Walker's name then used them to get a certified copy of his land title.
He allegedly presented the title, along with the driver's licence and a bill from the National Water Commission - both in the name of Kenneth Walker - at the Supreme Court on April 19 this year to post bail for Devon Harriott, who had been in custody since 2010 when he was charged with murder.
A senior court official told The Gleaner yesterday that employees tasked with processing bail for accused persons do not have the capacity or the technical competence to detect fraudulent documents.
"We have to deal with the person standing before us with the required identification," the official said, while acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations against Bailey.
The official revealed, too, that the court system is now fully computerised to keep track of all documents used in the bail process but conceded that the old paper-based system would have facilitated Bailey's alleged scheme.
"Documents and other things would often get lost in the system," the official explained.
ON THE RADAR
James Bailey landed on the radar of law enforcement authorities last month after Harriott and his co-accused, Oshane Coley and Michael Jacobs, absconded bail shortly after their trial began. The three were convicted in absentia for pumping 12 bullets into the body of Craig Lewis in December 2009 and remain on the run.
While Harriott's trial was in progress on September 20, Bailey showed up at the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston to bail another accused person when a keen-eyed court employee recognised him as the person who had bailed the now-convicted killer.
He was taken into custody, and Llewellyn gave instructions for the police to conduct a thorough investigation into his activities. The following day, Bailey appeared before Justice Martin Gayle and admitted that he had used the title to bail three other persons, including a man charged with shooting.
Bailey also admitted that he did not personally know Harriott.
"A friend of mine introduced me to him [Harriott]," he told Justice Gayle at the time.
He was ordered to remain in custody until the bail amount of $300,000 was satisfied.