Former finance employee sentenced to two years for stealing $258k in govt funds

A former employee at the Ministry of Finance has been jailed for two years for stealing $258,000 in public funds.

Former accounts clerk James Anwar Johnson, 31, was sentenced Friday night after being convicted of falsification of accounts, stealing by reason of employment, and attempted stealing by reason of employment.

Johnson, of St. Andrew’s Beach Estates, made false entries in the computer system that caused VMMS Business to be paid for work it did not do, the court heard.

Johnson’s aunt, Janica Deveaux, the owner of VMMS Business, is being sought by police in connection to the matter, prosecutors said.

The government hired the company to train employees at the Department of Inland Revenue.

Prosecutors alleged that between November 2016 and April 2017, Johnson made false entries that showed VMMS Business was entitled to close to $500,000.

They further alleged that Johnson and others stole $445,996.42 and attempted to steal $41,115.

The unauthorized payments were made by direct deposit to the company’s bank account. The money was then transferred to other accounts, including $30,000 to Johnson’s.

Johnson admitted to participating in the scheme when he was arrested and interviewed by police in August 2017.

However, during the trial, Johnson claimed that his former lawyer influenced him to make the incriminating statement.

Magistrate Ambrose Armbrister found that prosecutors had only proven that Johnson had facilitated the theft of $258,000 and the attempted theft of $41,115.

The ordained minister could serve an additional two years in prison, if he doesn’t pay fines totaling $12,500 before the completion of his sentence.

In mitigation, defense attorney Bjorn Ferguson said that Johnson was remorseful. According to Ferguson, Johnson did not receive most of the stolen funds.

He suggested that the magistrate order the repayment of the money.

Ferguson suggested that all of the money had not been lost, as a freeze order had been placed on VMMS’ account.

In response, Terry Archer, the prosecutor, said that there was only $40,000 in the account when a court order stopped further activity.

Archer said that before the trial started, Johnson had sought a plea deal that called for the repayment of the money. Archer added that Johnson shouldn’t expect the same punishment after a full trial.

However, Armbrister said that a repayment order wasn’t feasible given the large sum involved.

Furthermore, he said that ordering reimbursement would not serve as a deterrent to others.

The decision was Armbrister’s second to last case before he left office.

Armbrister, who has served as a magistrate since 2017, gave notice of his resignation last month. He delivered his sentencing decision after 8 p.m.

Since the prison had already stopped accepting new admissions, Johnson spent the weekend in the lockup at a police station. He’s expected to be transferred to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services today.

Johnson, who had been free on $30,000 bail, struggled to compose himself as a police sergeant led him away.

He gazed at his mother, who broke down in tears outside of court. Johnson’s visibly distraught wife left the courtroom shortly after the magistrate convicted her husband. She did not remain for the sentencing.

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Artesia Davis

Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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