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Straw vendors arrested in NY

What started out as a shopping trip to New York for nine Bahamian straw vendors in September ended in their arrests at a major international airport as they waited on their flight to be called.

Roshanda Rolle, Gayle Rolle, Marva Ferguson, Marvette Ferguson, Patricia Hanna, Shavonne Thompson, Margaret Pierre, Judy Duncombe, and Tracy Davis were arrested on September 18.

They were charged with trafficking counterfeit goods and conspiracy and pleaded guilty to the charges

Five of the nine women were granted bail in amounts ranging from$5,000 to$20,000 cash including personal sureties and were ordered to remain in the southeast New York area until trial.

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette warned that their arrests should be taken as a warning by all vendors.

Vendors have long argued that Bahamian made goods are passed over by visitors who are more inclined to purchase the fake American handbags.

Following the arrests, the government hired attorney Elliot Sagor of the New York law firm Hogan Lovells.

In the days that followed, the vendors were released on their personal recognizance after they were sentenced to time served and placed on probation of between two and three years. They spent over a month in a New York holding facility.

Marva Ferguson, Gayle Rolle and Roshanda Rolle were also ordered to pay restitution.

In November, following the return of the last straw vendor from New York, the group met with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at his Cable Beach office.

The vendors thanking God for their happy and safe return, declined to say what the meeting was about or what was discussed.

Today as the$11 million straw market is months away from completion, the government has announced plans to ban the sale of all counterfeit goods in the facility and announced a new rate hike.

The Nassau Guardianunderstands that vendors are charged$800 per year in rental fees to the government to operate in the market. Public Works Minister Neko Grant said the new fee would be$200 to$250 per month.

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