Ria Rambally and Rosemarie Sant
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$350,000 bail for WPC on 100 fraud charges
A woman police constable accused of fleecing close to $400,000 from her employer, using fraudulent medical bills for cancer treatment has been released on $350,000 bail. WPC Elizabeth Hope, 40, of Oleander Drive, Edinburgh 500, was granted bail after she appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court yesterday on 100 fraud offences which occurred between 2010 and last March while she was assigned to the Anti-Kidnapping Unit. Hope, a single mother, with sons aged 15 and 21, was dressed in a dark grey business suit and stood silently with her hands clasped in front of her as the charges were read by Magistrate Christine Charles.
The officer spoke only to confirm her name and was not called upon to plead to the charges which were laid indictably. Hope, who has more than ten years service as a police officer, is accused of forging multiple receipts for cancer treatment at the private West Shore Medical Hospital, Cocorite. She was also jointly charged with Cherrise Austin, a former employee of the hospital, with forging receipts using the stamp of Dr Dilip Dan, a general surgeon at the hospital. Austin had been charged previously and appeared before Charles earlier this month. According to the details listed on the charges, the forged receipts were for alleged treatment which consisted of stomach and colon biopsies, several injections and medication as well as routine doctor visits.
Each forgery charge was accompanied by a corresponding one where Hope is accused of uttering the forged documents in claims made to the Police Service (TTPS)’s Finance Branch at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. In addition, Hope also was slapped with several charges for using the forged documents to obtain almost $400,000 from the TTPS and the Central Bank. After taking almost two hours to read the charges, inclusive of a couple of breaks where Charles stood the matter down and returned to court moments later, the magistrate invited the police prosecutor to make submissions on the issue of bail. Prosecutor Insp Joseph Darceuil stated he believed that Hope was a flight risk and should be denied bail. He said Hope had left the country earlier this month without following a TTPS protocol where officers left foreign contact information with the office of the Police Commissioner before embarking on overseas trips.
Hope reportedly travelled to the United States, then to the United Kingdom before eventually returning home last Thursday. He also claimed that forcing Hope to surrender her passport to the court may be ineffective in preventing her leaving the country before her trial begins. “If someone surrenders their passport there is no communication to the Immigration Department and to the police. There is nothing preventing them from reporting their passport stolen and going to Immigration to get a replacement,” Darceuil said. Darceuil also indicated a prosecutor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would have to be assigned to the case as Hope could not be prosecuted by her colleagues. Hope’s lawyer, Keith Scotland, took issue with Darceuil’s claims on his client, describing them as “patently misleading.”
Scotland noted his client was on legitimate sick leave when she left the country and was not extradited from the United Kingdom but instead returned on her own volition. “At the time of the surrender there was no issuance of any warrant for her arrest. She surrendered willingly,” Scotland said. Charles eventually agreed with Scotland’s submissions and granted Hope bail. She ordered her to surrender her passport. To satisfy Darceuil’s concerns, Charles stated she would send a letter to Immigration officials indicating Hope should not be issued a new passport for the duration of the case. The officer is also being represented by attorneys Larry Williams and Chase Pegus. Hope will reappear in court alongside Austin on Friday.
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