Thu | Feb 2, 2023

Sentencing further delayed for senior convicted of land fraud

Published:Saturday | November 26, 2022 | 12:05 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

A senior citizen who was convicted of land fraud after she stole her friend’s property and gifted portions of it to herself and her children will have to spend another week in custody before her fate is decided on December 1.

The 74-year-old defendant, Zela Dell Johnson, whose bail was revoked in September, was two weeks ago further remanded after her lawyer, Oswest Senior Smith, turned up at the sentencing hearing with a document from a doctor, indicating that imprisonment would be detrimental to her recovery from surgery.

The sentencing judge, Justice Leighton Pusey, had repeatedly advised Johnson that incarceration was highly likely since her conviction in the Home Circuit Court on 14 counts of fraud-related charges.

But the doctor, in the letter that was submitted to the court, explained that incarceration would be disadvantageous to Johnson, who had recently undergone surgery.

The judge, however, indicated that the information was not only presented in an unacceptable format, but was also lacking critical information as the doctor had not even indicated the type of surgery done.


As a result, Justice Pusey decided that the best option was to remand Johnson for her to be examined by a doctor in the Department of Correctional Services and for a report to be submitted indicating how incarceration would affect her.

As a result, the sentencing was postponed.

However, the matter was again delayed on Thursday because of the unavailability of a court reporter.

The facts in the case reveal that in November 1991, the complainant, a United States resident, sent money to Johnson to purchase a parcel of land in May Pen, Clarendon.

The purchase was completed in 1992, and the title was mailed to the complainant.

But the complainant returned the title to Johnson for her to hand it over to the original owner.

In July 1994, the complainant was made aware of an advertisement in THE STAR in relation to a lost title for the property,

Consequently, the complainant came to Jamaica to conduct a personal investigation and later reported the matter to the police after he found out that a lost title application had been made. A new title was issued.

The complainant also learned that the property was transferred by way of a gift and subdivided in 1995. The property was transferred not only to Johnson, but her four children and ex-husband.

Her ex-husband, however, indicated that he did not give her any permission to sign his name on any document and that he was overseas on the date when it was alleged that he had signed.