While issuing a combined fine of $92,000 on the Venezuelan couple held with nearly $80,000 at the BVI’s main airport, Magistrate Shawn Innocent said he suspects the offenders are money mules who are part of a larger criminal enterprise.
In handing down the fines, which are to be paid forthwith, Magistrate Innocent said he was sending a ‘strong public message’ that the crimes for which Kall Yanez Duarte and Elianneth Isabel Espinoza Montilla were charged are serious.
He said the frequency of the types of crimes appears to be increasing in the territory. This, he said, could potentially tarnish the territory’s reputation in the financial services industry and otherwise.
Magistrate Innocent then said the couple’s story of earning the cash through the sale of an apartment in their home country was ‘fanciful’. That was when he said he believes the duo was working with others and allowed themselves to be used as mules for financial gains.
He further pointed to the design, manner, and execution of the offence committed which, he said, showed premeditation and planning; particularly in how the funds were concealed.
He said the similarities of their backpacks also indicated that the two were well aware of the criminal enterprise that they were embarking on.
The magistrate then stated that the only mitigating factor in their case was their early guilty plea. The other factors in their case were all things that aggravated their crimes, he said.
Breakdown of fines
A breakdown of the couple’s sentence shows each of them being fined $20,000 for possession of proceeds of criminal conduct.
They will spend nine months in prison if that amount is not paid forthwith.
On the concealment of the proceeds of criminal conduct offence, they were fined another $20,000 each, which is to be paid forthwith or, in default, nine months imprisonment.
Each of the two Venezuelans was also slapped with a $6,000 fine for the offence of failing to declare monies to Customs.
All custodial sentences will run concurrently; meaning the prison time to be served by each of the offenders will run at the same time and not one after the other.
The $74,841.75 sum they had stashed in their luggage and on their person was also forfeited to the territory.
What the Prosecution said happened
In late September while trying to depart the territory through the TB Lettsome International Airport, Montilla was chosen for a random luggage search where a little more than $24,000 was found in her luggage.
The discovery then led local authorities to search Duarte’s luggage where the sum of $22,773 was found.
The pair was eventually arrested and brought to the Road Town Police Station.
It was while there that $14,000 each was found to be concealed in the crotch area of both Duarte and Montilla.
Attorney Leroy Jones represented the duo.
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