Couple's alleged $553,000 fraud is detailed in court
A civil servant and his wife stole hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to fund their luxurious lifestyle, a prosecutor alleged yesterday.
Kyril Burrows, a former buildings manager in Works and Engineering, is accused of dishonestly submitting invoices so Government paid to rebuild the house he shared in St George's with his co-accused wife Delcina Bean-Burrows.
Mr Burrows, an architect, also directed Government funds to his wife's company Ren Tech under the false premise it would carry out construction work at schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Crown counsel Susan Mulligan claimed as she opened the case against the pair at Supreme Court.
He is further accused of spending Government cash on televisions which were later discovered in the couple's home, said Ms Mulligan on the first day of a trial which could last up to ten weeks.
“Quite simply, the Crown alleges that Mr Burrows abused his position of trust to enrich himself and his spouse from the public purse,” the prosecutor told the court.
She said Financial Instructions rules were in place to ensure taxpayer money is spent correctly, but continued: “You will hear evidence Mr Burrows was aware of the policies and knew of his responsibilities but, nevertheless, the Crown alleges that he violated the rules and that he and his spouse stole over half a million dollars from the public purse.”
Ms Mulligan told the jury they may question why the couple would risk everything for the sake of half a million dollars and some televisions.
The answer, she said, may be found in “the lifestyle they were living at the time and expenses they had at the time”.
She said: “The evidence suggests they were ahead of themselves, living well beyond their means and could no longer support the lifestyle they were living.
“They took what didn't belong to them so they could finish building the house.”
Mr Burrows, 48, and Mrs Bean-Burrows, 49, are accused of defrauding Government of more than $553,000 between them.
They have pleaded not guilty to 35 charges between January 2005 and July 2008, encompassing allegations of cheating, obtaining money transfers by deception, obtaining property by deception, money laundering and false accounting.
The trial finally got under way yesterday afternoon, after a jury selection process spanning two and a half days.
As she began outlining the prosecution's case, Ms Mulligan told jurors they may conclude other public officials turned a blind eye to the couple's alleged offences, adding: “Maybe there were others who should have been held accountable. If that's the case, they may well have their day in court and be held accountable in some way.”
She said Mr Burrows was a manager for Works and Engineering from May 2003 to June 2008, managing and approving contracts for building maintenance and minor works.
“He was required to exercise strict financial management for what amounted to a multimillion dollar budget,” she told the court.
In 2004, she said, the couple moved into a Government property at Tudor Farm in Southampton, so that their own home at Turkey Hill in St George's could be rebuilt.
She told the jury they would hear from a construction worker, John White, who alleges Mr Burrows hired him claiming to be a Works and Engineering “big wig” and falsely told him Turkey Hill was a Works project.
That construction worker provided labour to renovate the Turkey Hill home, but was told to restrict each invoice to less than $3,000; Ms Mulligan suggested that would keep the figures within the amount Mr Burrows was authorised to spend on Government projects.
“In total, 149 invoices were made with a total value somewhere around the $400,000 or $500,000 mark,” she said. “All 149 were authorised for payment by Mr Burrows.”
She alleged Mr Burrows provided incorrect information on the payment certificates to deceive the Account General's Department into thinking the cash was going toward Government projects.
Ms Mulligan also outlined brief details of the Crown's case that Mr Burrows signed and filed invoices to Mrs Bean-Burrows' firm Ren Tech; she said Ren Tech had no registered employees and existed only on paper.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, she said, Ren Tech invoices were submitted on the understanding the company would install safety boards at schools across the Island.
“You will be hearing evidence from school principal after school principal, caretaker after caretaker, that no such hoarding was done at schools for which hoarding invoices were submitted by Ren Tech,” said Ms Mulligan.
“Cheques were issued by the Accountant General and deposited into Mrs Bean-Burrows' account and used for the personal benefit of the Burrows.
“You will hear evidence that no one ever seriously questioned Mr Burrows about any of this because, not only was he the boss, he was trusted.”
Another of Mrs Bean-Burrows' firms, Theravisions, had been paid thousands of dollars in public funds after invoices were signed by Mr Burrows, said Ms Mulligan.
“Only a small portion of the goods supplied by Theravisions was actually supplied,” said Ms Mulligan.
According to Ms Mulligan, shortly before Christmas 2005, Mr Burrows used a Government purchase order to buy a 26-inch television and DVD player from M&M electronics shop in Hamilton.
“There's no record of that TV and DVD having ever been received by the Ministry of Works and Engineering or any other Government department,” she told the court.
“Equipment matching those items was recovered by the police from Tudor Farm where they were living.”
In December 2006, said Ms Mulligan, Mr Burrows again used a Government purchase order at M&M, this time to buy a 36-inch TV. That TV was also never seen at Works and Engineering and, like the other one, was discovered at the Burrows' residence.
The prosecutor said that, in January 2008, Mr Burrows purchased a 58-inch plasma screen TV from M&M; on this occasion he bought it with two purchase orders each worth $2,300.
However, the man who was asked to deliver that TV to Tudor Farm declined on the basis that he felt uncomfortable, Ms Mulligan said.
Then-Civil Service head Kenneth Dill believed such a purchase was problematic, said the lawyer, and spoke to Mr Burrows, questioning why the TV could not be found at Works and Engineering.
She said Mr Burrows denied any wrongdoing to Mr Dill, insisting the TV was going to be installed at Prospect.
“The next day, Mr Burrows wrote to Mr Dill tendering his resignation,” she said. “To date, the TV has not been recovered.”
The trial continues.