A magistrate yesterday dismissed charges against four people accused of helping former Urban Renewal boss Michelle Reckley launder more than a quarter million dollars after finding the statute of limitations had expired.
Magistrate Ambrose Armbrister told Kylon Vincent, 26, Stefanie Collie, 28, and Christopher Symonette, 57, that he lacked jurisdiction to preside over their case because the charges were laid against them more than six months after they were alleged to have been committed. Armbrister’s ruling also affected James Wildgoose, who had not been arrested and charged in relation to the offenses.
Armbrister’s ruling did not affect 50-year-old Reckley, who is accused of defrauding the government of over $1.2 million through the government’s Small Homes Repair Programme on Grand Bahama, and her alleged co-conspirators James Hall and Joseph Lightbourne.
Prosecutors allege that Reckley and Hall, between December 5, 2016 and April 25, 2017, obtained payments totaling $1,255,637.84 from the government for contracts issued to James Hall T/A Distinctive Builders under the government’s Small Homes Repair Programme in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
All seven defendants were initially arraigned before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt on February 13, who later transferred the matter to Armbrister for trial.
Armbrister was set to hear 41 counts, but whittled the charges down to 22 after determining that 19 counts were affected by the statute of limitations.
Friday’s court appearance was scheduled as a fixture hearing, but Armbrister raised the issue of jurisdiction first.
Armbrister noted that the defendants were charged under the Proceeds of Crime Act that was repealed in May 2018.
Lead prosecutor Eucal Bonaby said that this did not “do violence” to the matters because the police investigation into the money laundering charges began when the old act was in effect.
However, Armbrister was not convinced. He said, “You cannot charge someone with an offense that does not exist.”
Armbrister said that the crown could seek an order of mandamus from the Supreme Court.
The trial of the remaining defendants is set for October 21.