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TRINIDADIAN CONS JAMAICAN OUT OF US$14,346!

CMC—

A Trinidadian conned a Jamaican expatriate worker out of US$14,346 by posing as a lawyer and pretending to help him with immigration and divorce proceedings in Bermuda.

Joel Balfour, a 42-year-old information technology engineer, pleaded guilty in Magistrates’ Court on Monday, to obtaining the money by deception from Albert Ricketts between November 2011 and April 2012.

Balfour will be sentenced in June.

Prosecutor Maria Sofianos told the court that Ricketts, 43, a construction worker, met Balfour through a mutual friend in Bermuda last November.

Balfour told him he could get divorce papers for him relating to a marriage in Jamaica, so he could move to Canada with his family and what Sofianos described as his “Filipino friend”.

Balfour told the victim that he knew a Canadian lawyer, who could get the paperwork in four months for US$7,000.

Ricketts paid him US$1,800 the same month to get the divorce proceedings going. He then paid the rest of the money in follow up instalments at the behest of Balfour, who named the Canadian attorney as “Patrick Ferguson”.

However, Sofianos said Balfour was, in fact, posing as Patrick Ferguson, who does not exist, and sent e-mails to the victim pretending to be the lawyer.

Ricketts became suspicious and reported Balfour to the police, who arrested him at the weekend.

At this point, said the prosecutor, the defendant admitted creating the fictitious name of the lawyer to make Ricketts think he was dealing with a genuine person.

She said Balfour deserves a prison sentence and also indicated the prosecution is seeking a reparation order for the full amount of money taken from the victim.

Addressing the court, Balfour, who is married to a foreigner with two children born in Bermuda, said: “I would like to apologise to Mr Ricketts for causing the stress that I have put him through.

Defence lawyer Leo Mills said Balfour’s wife is expecting the couple’s third child.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner encouraged Balfour to repay the victim.

He ordered a pre-sentence report and released the defendant on US$5,000 bail with the proviso that he must surrender his travel documents.

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