Sat | Feb 23, 2019

Attorney convicted of fraud in 2-year trial

Published:Wednesday | January 23, 2019 | 12:43 AM

An attorney who fleeced a St Catherine couple out of nearly $2 million they paid as deposit on a house has been convicted of fraud after a trial that lasted two years.

Arlene Beckford was found guilty in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court yesterday on one count of fraudulent conversion for diverting the couple’s $1.8 million down payment to her personal use.

Four other complaints by persons who had accused Beckford of defrauding them were dismissed after prosecutors offered no further evidence against her.

The attorney, who had her bail extended, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 17.

Beckford’s conviction comes 26 months after her fraud trial began and three years after a disciplinary panel of the General Legal Council (GLC) ruled that she should be struck from the list of persons authorised to practise law in Jamaica and refund the couple.

Prosecutors, in outlining the case against the attorney, revealed that in 2012, she collected $1.8 million from the couple for a property they were purchasing in Eltham Park, St Catherine. Instead of paying over the money to the vendors, Beckford diverted the funds to her “own use and benefit”.

In its decision, which was handed down on January 22, 2016, the GLC disciplinary panel outlined that the woman, a cosmetologist, reported that after she and her fiancé made the down payment in three instalments, they were told by Beckford that the transaction would take “no longer than six months”.

Further, the woman indicated that they had a commitment from the National Housing Trust (NHT) to provide financing for the transaction.

However, the complainant told the GLC panel that after their six-month wait, she and her companion could not get any reasonable explanation from Beckford as to why the sale had not been completed and this led them to the NHT.

That was when, according to the woman’s account, they discovered that Beckford had not forwarded the necessary documents to the NHT “to effect the [sale] process”.

As a result, she said, the offer of financing from the NHT was cancelled.