Financial Investigations Division (FID), Jamaica, Targets Assets after Five Convicted in $400m Manchester Municipal Fraud Trial

The Government of Jamaica has begun the legal process of seeking to take possession of properties and other assets valued at more than $220 million that have been traced to former Manchester Parish Council (renamed  Manchester Municipal Corporation(MMC)) official Sanja Elliott. The properties and assets, which include an apartment complex consisting of 11 units, a four-storey family house, four residential lots, six high-end motor vehicles, as well as a Honda Ridgeline, and several bank accounts, have been frozen by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Elliott, a former Deputy Superintendent in charge of roads and works, was one of three former MMC officials who were found guilty in the Manchester Parish Court on May 15th, 2020 for their roles in a scheme used to defraud the local government authority of approximately $400 million. The other persons were David Harris, former Secretary-Manager and Finance Director and Kendale Roberts, former Temporary Works Overseer. The official’s wife and his close friend were also convicted for their involvement in the scheme, which involved the creation of dozens of fictitious payment vouchers in the names of friends and associates of the former local government official.

After the verdicts were announced, an attorney for the FID stated that the agency will request that the five convicted persons be committed to the Supreme Court. “We are putting it on record that we intend, on the date of sentencing, to make applications that the convicted parties be committed to the Circuit Court for the hearing of a forfeiture order or pecuniary penalty order,” the attorney said.

This is the largest fraud case in Jamaica’s history involving a municipal authority. Evidence was obtained from dozens of cheques, drawn on the account of the MMC and made payable to friends of Mr. Elliott and persons previously employed to the municipality for works which were never done. Two other witnesses testified that they also cashed dozens of cheques, drawn in their names on the account of the MMC, and turned over the monies to Mr. Elliott or his close friend. One witness stated that she cashed about 40 cheques. The Senior Parish Judge who presided over the case stated that “she made no enquiries of Mr Elliott as to why she was encashing cheques when she did no work for the Manchester Parish Council…she never caused any work to be done, she was never employed by the council and she submitted no document in the form of an invoice to the Manchester Parish Council in relation to any work.”

The Judge also pointed to evidence of the “lifestyle” of Mr. Elliot and his wife. “The evidence is that over an eight-day span in May 2016, Mr Elliott had expended more than $1.5 million on luxury items…it’s the court’s findings that this was right before her eyes, she was a part of it, enjoying it. She must have become suspicious that there was some criminal conduct of some kind involved.”

The five convicted persons were offered bail until the date of sentencing on July 27th, 2020.