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Couple imprisoned on money laundering charges

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A former Government employee and his ex-girlfriend were jailed yesterday for laundering cash said to be from drug trafficking.

Omari Franklin, 34, was sentenced to five years after admitting laundering more than $63,000 between May 2007 and May 2010.

The Crown said the money was from drug trafficking, a crime Franklin was close to; yesterday he was also ordered to forfeit more than $100,000 cash discovered in his home as part of the police investigation.

Franklin’s former partner Dennisha Simmons, 33, who claimed she didn’t know the money was dirty and was transferring it on his behalf as a favour, was jailed for four months.

Simmons’ lawyer Richard Horseman told Supreme Court her biggest crime was to naively assume Franklin had earned the cash from his jobs at the Government quarry and as a part-time security guard.

Mr Horseman pointed out Simmons, a mother-of-two, had not profited from her actions and had lost her job at Butterfield Bank as a result of the case.

But Crown counsel Kirsty-Ann Kiellor described Simmons as a knowing and willing participant in the scheme.

Ms Kiellor told the court police seized more than $127,000 in cash in a raid on Franklin’s home in Roberts Avenue, Devonshire, in May 2010.

The money was stashed in envelopes and a Ziploc bag in the bedroom, and a plastic bag behind a cushion in the lounge, Ms Kiellor said.

Franklin also wired more than $63,000 overseas and Simmons more than $101,000, claimed Ms Kiellor, meaning in total the scheme was worth around $292,000.

She said Franklin was very close to the criminals who obtained the money through drugs trafficking, and that he placed a large amount of trust in Simmons, his former girlfriend of two to three years.

Simmons was trained in combating money laundering in her job as an administrator for Butterfield.

“She was the knowing and willing participant who agreed to it, and facilitated it through her account,” said Ms Kiellor.

“She had knowledge through training as part of her job. This was significant.”

Mr Horseman told the court: “She denies she knew Franklin had anything to do with drugs trafficking.”

The lawyer said Simmons accepted she should have known the cash was dirty, but continued: “She was in a relationship with him for two or three years; she didn’t know he was drug dealing.

“He liked to travel a lot and she exchanged money for him. But with her training, she should have known.”

Franklin pleaded guilty to laundering $63,955 which were the proceeds of crime, and to possessing 3.1 grams of cannabis and drugs equipment which were also discovered in the raid at his home.

His lawyer Charles Richardson noted he faced no charges over the cash found in his home and stressed he was not a drug dealer.

Simmons pleaded guilty to laundering cash while having reasonable grounds to suspect it was Franklin’s profits from drugs trafficking.

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves said money laundering is a particular threat to a small jurisdiction such as Bermuda, which relies on the financial sector.

“Those who fall to their own weakness and addiction to greed and as a result engage or assist by their actions, encourage participation in such schemes, constitute real threats to the orderliness of our society,” said Mr Justice Greaves.

The judge ordered Franklin to serve six months for the cannabis possession and six months for drug equipment, to run concurrently with his five years for money laundering. He also ordered him to forfeit the $127,000 found in his home.

Simmons’ sentence matched that of Michelle Lindsay, who was jailed last year for helping Roger Cox launder nearly $25,000 of his dirty money.

Following yesterday’s sentencing, charges of possession of proceedings of crime and conspiring to import drugs will remain on file against Franklin.

A third co-accused, Allana Tait, was discharged, although counts against her of money laundering, and possession of proceedings of crime, drugs and drug equipment will remain on file.

Omari Franklin (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Dennisha Simmons (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 27, 2012 at 9:55 am (Updated March 27, 2012 at 9:55 am)

Couple imprisoned on money laundering charges

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