A teacher and Justice of the Peace on Friday admitted to members of the Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society, located in Vermont, that he misappropriated at least EC$83,000 belonging to the society, of which he is president.
The embattled friendly society president, Morris Prescott, who is also a high-ranking member of the Cadet Force, however, declined to comment to iWitness News about what he did with the money when we asked him about it after the meeting.
Prescott, who is said to be in his 50s and teaches at the Campden Park Technical Institute, held his head low as he walked in the direction of his home from the meeting, which was held at the Vermont Community Centre, located at Retreat, Friday night.
The friendly society, which is more than 60 years old, is a type of cooperative, in which members pool monies to finance each other’s funerals.
At the end of the calendar year, and generally before Christmas, members are given back in cash the excess that they have in their accounts after the amounts paid out for funeral expenses are deducted.
Therefore, some members of friendly societies use their accounts to save monies for the Christmas holidays.
A source with knowledge of the development told iWitness News that Prescott was responsible for banking the society’s money for over 20 years.
He is said to have done so on Wednesdays.
Prescott took up an even more leading role in the society after the death of another director, Boysie Stephenson, in September.
Sometime this year, a member of the management board of the society asked Prescott if he was having any challenges handling the banking transactions and the said no.
In keeping with tradition, Prescott and another member of the management board were supposed to travel to Kingstown last week Wednesday to withdraw monies for end-of-year payments to members.
However, Prescott did not turn up and when the member called his home, she was told that he had already left for Kingstown.
But also Prescott did not turn up to do the banking transaction and the other board member did not hear from him on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.
She, therefore, became suspicious and when she finally reached him by telephone, demanded that he say when the money would be paid to members.
Prescott then told the other board member that he had “used and abused the money” and that he had “messed up”, the source told iWitness News.
iWitness News was reliably informed that Prescott did not make any deposits into the account this year.
The account is said to have a balance of EC$1,931.
The matter has been reported to the Financial Services Authority, which is responsible for regulating non-commercial-bank financial institutions.
A representative of the FSA attended Friday’s meeting.
iWitness News understands that the Financial Intelligence Unit is also investigating the case.
At Friday’s meeting, Prescott accepted full responsibility for EC$83,000 that is unaccounted for.
However, a source told iWitness News that the amount missing could be much more, with one source quoting EC$200,000.
At the meeting, members of the society told Prescott that it was not enough for him to admit that he had stolen the money and promise to pay it back.
They demanded that he say what he had done with the money and he then told them that he had used it to help students, but was very vague in his response about who the students were and where they live.
Treval “Sexy” Ollivierre was one of the first persons to exit the meeting, which was attended by a handful of persons and an armed police officer.
iWitness News understands that not many members of the society knew about the meeting and some of them only heard about it Friday afternoon.
Ollivierre initially struggled to find words to express himself after hearing Prescott’s account.
“Really and truly, I have to say this man’s dishonest, very dishonest. Because people trust this man as a president of the society,” he said, adding that the society has been in existence for more than 80 years.
“And for one year, they put the man in charge as a president and the man–” he said, while other members said Prescott has been president for more than a year, with some putting his tenure at five years.
Ollivierre, however, contended that Prescott has been in charge of the society since Stephenson died this year.
“I want to know when we are going to get back our money,” he said, adding that the society only has EC$1,900 in the bank, a figure that a source with knowledge of the society’s accounts confirmed to iWitness News.
He said the meeting decided to leave the matter in the hands of the police.
Ollivierre noted that Prescott is a teacher and a Justice of the Peace.
“And he using poor people money. I can’t understand what’s going on,” he said.
Another member of the society said she felt it for the recipients of Public Assistance who use the society to save a portion of those monies.
Public Assistance in St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranges from EC$225 to EC$250 per month.
“Even today one lady was crying how she hungry and she looking for she money and she can’t get it,” the society member told iWitness News after the meeting.
“And this man, Mr. Prescott, take people’s money; 83 thousand dollars just go down the drain like that and talking about he helped school children. Who school children? He can’t give a name. When you ask him where they’re living, somewhere in Campden Park over some bush by Forestry and somewhere in Sharpes,” the woman said.
She said she has been a member of the society since she was a little child, but said she felt really sorry for the persons who are looking forward to the money for Christmas.
Another woman, who said she is 67 years old, said her mother enrolled her as a member of the society when she was just eight years old.
“And all me money gone down the drain? All!?”
Another woman said that in 2016, Prescott only deposited money in February — some EC$1,900 — and the sum deposited was not the total collected.
Another woman told iWitness News, “I have a great, great respect for that man. I was really disappointed in him because I have great respect for him.”