JO - Dream job sours after 11 years
Dream job sours after 11 years
BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Sunday Observer senior reporter email@example.com
Sunday, November 16, 2008
THE grass always seems greener on the other side, and in the case of Mandeville native Kevin Anderson, for a long time it was. That was, until he was arrested in the Cayman Islands for allegedly stealing more than KYD$137,000 worth of diamonds from his employer.
Kevin Anderson at his home in Mandeville, Manchester.
For the better part of 11 years, Kevin was one of the most trusted employees at Island Companies Limited, a chain of retail jewellery stores on Grand Cayman. He was employed as a maintenance man and also served as quasi-security guard.
That meant that in addition to cleaning, fixing broken windows and doors, painting peeling walls and overseeing the exterminator and furniture changers when summoned, he also had to securethe building and/or its contents when left unsecured. It also meant that he had access to the company's valuables.
"They have like 27 stores and I have keys for all 27. [I had the] combination for every safe. Every morning, I pick up the cash [and] take it to the main office. They check it off, call me, I pick up the girl with the cash, take it to the bank and that's a[n] every day - except Sunday - thing.
"Hurricane [Ivan] come, building get damaged, I get call out my bed, I go out there, jewellery all over the place, I secure them. There was no time of the day or night dem call me and mi tell dem sey, 'no, mi cyaan go'. All the time I was there," Anderson told the Sunday Observer.
For his troubles, he earned $450 per week ($1,800 per month) plus overtime. After rent ($1,000, split evenly with a roommate), utilities ($200), phone ($60), gas ($40), groceries and lunch ($450), he was left with more than $500 plus the overtime monies which he said sometimes amounted to more than his wages.
Each month he sent money to his ailing mother in Mandeville and supported his daughter in Miami. Life was good.
Then, at the end of January 2007, things changed suddenly and dramatically. He was thrown behind bars for three months before his uncle was able to post the $50,000 bail. But the charges, he maintains, were 'chumped up' and though he was later acquitted hasn't assuaged his suffering.
Kevin's change of luck all started when, at his boss' request, he paid him a visit at his house to repair a television set he was told was not working. The request, he said, wasn't strange because he also fixed electronic equipment at the office, having learned the basics from friends who operate sound systems.
"It was Thursday. I was at work the morning as usual, [even though] I didn't leave work 'til after 12:00 the night because we were doing some carpeting in one of the stores. Part of my job was to check the mailbox and I was sorting mail in uncle's office when I got a call from my boss John Rae. Him say him deh home and want to watch a football match but him wasn't seeing any picture, he was only getting audio and asked if I could come fix it," he recalls.
Before he knew what was happening, however, he was handcuffed and escorted to jail by four policemen who arrived while he was inspecting his boss' car - again at the proprietor's request. The prosecution claimed that on January 6 and 28 he stole more than KYD$300,000 worth of diamonds from the company. Anderson's lawyer, Howard Hamilton, QC, confirmed that the prosecution later decreased the value of the alleged theft to $134,000.
According to the Caymanian Compass, which covered the trial, on the first occasion Anderson was painting at one of the ICL stores but ran out of paint. When he went to the head office to get more, he found the door to the gemmologist's office unlocked and jewellery scattered on the floor. He testified that he returned the items to the safe.
On the second occasion, he accompanied an exterminator to several of the stores. When they got to the head office, he again found the gemmologist's door unlocked and jewellery scattered on the floor. Like he had done before, Anderson said, he returned the items to the safe.
According to the newspaper reports also, managing director of ICL, John Rea, conceded that the videotapes did not show the accused stashing anything on his person. He also testified that Anderson was one of three people who had the combinations to all the safes in the stores, but said he was not allowed to enter the gemmologist's office because it was a restricted area.
However, Hamilton, Jamaica's first public defender, took issue with the Caymanian police's investigation of the incident. He pointed out that no diamonds were found in Anderson's house or in his vehicle; that he didn't use gloves when he went into the gemmologist's office; that he didn't remove the security tapes; and that he didn't choose a time of the day when an alarm would have sounded, a situation he could have used as a cover to say the place was ransacked. The lawyer also questioned the fact that none of the other employees were investigated since there had been no sign of a forced entry which, according to the police, meant it was an inside job.
"That day in court was when I realised I couldn't trust anyone. They come with a lot of false claims. They said I wasn't supposed to be there after working hours, which I don't have; they said I was in a restricted area, which, it was the first I was knowing that ICL have a restricted area; they said we sprayed everywhere in the company on the 28th and that we didn't spray the main office at all so I had no reason to be there."
What saved him, he said, was that although the prosecution's invoice for the spraying was missing, his uncle, who was also his supervisor habitually photocopied and kept everything he signed.
"At the prison, you could go out and work, but when I see how I was there for nothing and I had my mommy home sick... I couldn't go. I was the one who worked and take care of her and everything. I just sit and wonder when it was going to be over," said the young man who admitted to being often depressed and to crying many nights as he lay on his prison bed.
"A lot of time when the other inmates watching TV, I just lay down in my bed thinking 'what dis happen to me?'," he said.
I was planning to go home for good the Christmas before that. It would have been my first Christmas in Jamaica in 11 years, but uncle encouraged me to stay. I said to myself that if I had gone, this wouldn't happen to me," he said.
It was a difficult time in his life but Anderson was happy about one thing - that he was locked up in Cayman and not in Jamaica.
This is the first of a three-part series examining the challenges some Jamaicans face when they go overseas to work.