Curtis spent part of building fund on personal expenses

Businessman Andre Curtis spent $271,000 paid to him to renovate a home in only four months, with less than half going toward actual construction, according to a forensic accountant.

Accountant Todd Boyd yesterday told Supreme Court that according to records, $87,566.40 of the payment went towards personal expenses, while another $46,760 was withdrawn as cash.

“When we got to the end of March, the beginning of April, virtually all of the money was used up,” Mr Boyd said.

Mr Curtis has been charged with stealing $141,826 from Andrew Smith, who paid him to renovate his Flatts home between December, 2006, and February, 2007.

He is also facing charges of stealing more than $130,000 of public money from Faith Based Tourism (FBT) between April, 2007, and April, 2008, using the funds for his own personal benefit, and fabricating a document explaining how the money was spent.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr Boyd told the court yesterday that on December 16, 2006, Mr Curtis had only $62.39 in his personal HSBC account, while his company Vision Construction held only $1.45 in its account.

Two days later, on December 18, Mr Smith paid a total of $271,000 into Mr Curtis’ private account. That same day, Mr Boyd said there were numerous other transactions, including $157,000 transferred into the account of Opelio Services, operated by his then-wife Laquita Zuill.

Mr Boyd said that using bank records and documents seized by the police, he was able to track where the money went and categorise the spending.

In total, he estimated that around $104,000 of the original $271,000 was spent on construction or payroll, while $25,000 was returned to Mr Smith.

The remaining funds were spent on items that Mr Boyd said did not fit the description of construction, were withdrawn as cash or transferred into other accounts held by Mr Curtis.

By March 30, 2007, Mr Curtis’s HSBC account had been virtually drained, with only $9.35 remaining.

Asked by Crown counsel Kirsty-Ann Kiellor if there was any reason the money couldn’t have been deposited into the Vision Construction account rather than Mr Curtis’ private account, Mr Boyd said there wasn’t any.

“I would have expected it to have gone into Vision rather than Mr Curtis’ account,” Mr Boyd said.

Also addressing the court, Detective Sergeant Paul Ridley of the Financial Crimes Unit said that he and other officers visited Mr Curtis’ home and office on December 18, 2008, seizing numerous documents.

Using that data, along with records provided by the Bank of Bermuda, the Bank of Butterfield and the Department of Tourism, Sgt Ridley created maps of Mr Curtis’ bank activity, tracking where the money from the Government went.

The series of maps showed portions of the money being moved from Harvest Investment Holding’s Ltd into Mr Curtis’ private savings account and credit card account.

During his investigation, Sgt Ridley said he came across Mr Smith, whom he initially investigated to rule him out as a suspect.

Attorney Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Curtis, asked if Sgt Ridley suggested that Mr Smith file a criminal complaint, but Sgt Ridley responded: “He may have volunteered it.”

Last week, Mr Smith told the court he had known Mr Curtis for 15 years, and that while the construction project started well, it became “hell on earth” with contractors complaining they had not been paid and having to pay extra to get retroactive planning permission.

In the end, Mr Smith said work on the site was left unfinished, with plastering, plumbing and electrical work all incomplete.

The trial is expected to continue in Supreme Court tomorrow.

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