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Steede family lose bid for seized $5,000

Murder victim: Morlan Steede was stopped at the airport in January 2016 with money that he failed to declare. He was shot dead in Pembroke less than two years later and his family have tried to recover the money that was taken from him by US Customs.

The family of a man shot dead has lost a legal attempt to recover $5,000 seized by US Customs officers a year before he was killed.

The Supreme Court heard that Morlan Steede was stopped at the airport on January 22, 2016 as he tried to fly to Jamaica via Miami.

He showed officers a forged document that appeared to be from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, which said he was not in the Jamaica criminal database.

But Steede, a Jamaican national, was denied permission to enter the US after the US officials discovered he had served six months behind bars for drug possession.

Mr Steede also told officers he had $3,000 in cash on him, but a search revealed $7,000 in US cash without any supporting documents to explain the purpose of the money.

The money was subsequently seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Mr Steede later told police that his wife, Martseeyah Jones, had given him $5,000 to make a down payment on a house in Jamaica for her and her sisters.

He said the remaining $2,000 was a gift from his father, Richard Steede.

But Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said in a written judgment: “It cannot be ignored that Morlan Steede wilfully attempted to deceive the US customs officers about the sum of cash on his person when he was at the airport.

“It is certainly inconceivable that he was genuinely mistaken about the fact that he was travelling with $7,000 cash.”

The judgment, released this month, added: “The dishonest conduct of Morlan Steede did not stop there.

“He clearly presented a fraudulent document to the authorities with the purpose of making the relevant officers believe that he had not previously been convicted of a criminal offence.”

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “The irresistible inference is that his efforts to conceal and deceive were deliberate and pre-calculated.”

Mr Steede, 30, from Hamilton Parish, was shot in the Deepdale area of Pembroke on November 3, 2017.

The seized money case was considered by Magistrates’ Court six months later and prosecutors asked for the money to be forfeited.

Magistrates’ Court heard at the time that Ms Jones told police that she and her sister, Rita Jones, had each given Steede $2,500 for “investment purposes”.

Richard Steede told police he had given his son $2,000 to give to his son’s mother to support a bus transport business.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo ruled the $2,000 should be returned to Richard Steede but that the $5,000 remainder should be forfeited.

However, the family launched a legal action in the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn the judgment.

Neither Martseeyah or Rita Jones took part in the hearing, but Richard Steede appeared as the representative of his son’s estate.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said in her judgment that the evidence that the $5,000 was intended for criminal conduct was strong.

She added that the conflict in stories about the $5,000 made the claim that the money was intended for investment “unworthy of belief”.

But Mrs Justice Subair Williams said there was some doubt about the $2,000 and upheld the magistrate’s decision to return the money to Richard Steede.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers. To view the Supreme Court judgment in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”