Teacher Je-Anne Jones-Ellis must repay the monies by July 31, 2019 to avoid a prison term. (iWN photo)

“You have some issues, medically. Life-threatening, potentially. So, that, in it itself, is an issue. This (sentencing) is the least of your issues right now. You have some serious issues.”

That was the reaction of Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, Thursday, after reading the medical reports of the teacher in the dock who had just pleaded guilty to three counts of stealing cash, amounting to EC$28,435, the property of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Je-Anne Jones-Ellis, 36, a teacher at St. Martin’s Secondary School, was brought before the magistrate at the Serious Offences Court, in Kingstown, charged that between Oct. 3 and Nov. 11, 2016, she stole EC$210, in cash, the property of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Old Montrose was further charged that between Jan. 10 and Nov. 6, 2017, she stole EC$14,310 in cash, also the property of the government.

A third charge was that between June 8 and Sept. 7, 2018, she stole EC$13,915, in cash, the property of the government.

According to the facts presented by the prosecution, Jones-Ellis has been attached to the school since 2013 and was responsible for the Book Loan Scheme.

The Book Loan Scheme is a government programme under which students pay EC$50 and are lent some of the textbooks they need for that academic year.

The prosecution told the court that, to date, none of the monies Jones-Ellis collected was deposited at the Treasury Department, as they should have been.

One Mr. Gibson, the deputy principal at the government-assisted secondary school, made a check in respect of the Book Loan Scheme and realised that there were some irregularities.

The matter was reported to the Audit Department, which conducted checks on the school’s Book Loan Scheme and uncovered irregularities.

The matter was then reported to the police, who conducted investigations, which led to the defendant being charged.

During the investigations, the defendant was taken into custody and was cautioned and was electronically interviewed and admitted to the offences.

In that interview, she said she has a medical condition that has been affecting her for years and that she used all the monies for medical purposes.

A search warrant was executed at her home in respect of the report, but nothing was recovered.

In mitigation, Jones-Ellis, who did not have a lawyer, said she admits that what she did was wrong but asked for leniency to repay the amount that was stolen.

The amount “misappropriated” was used solely for medical purposes, she emphasised.

“I am suffering from chronic hypertension, congestive heart failure, pulmonary accreta, and was supposed to do an angiogram to see what is causing the blockage,” the defendant told the court.

She further said that she has problems sleeping at nights.

“Hence, I am asking for a — I don’t know the legal term, correct me if I am wrong — a non-custodial sentence and time to pay, your honour,” Jones-Ellis pleaded.

Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche, in making representation on behalf of the Crown, said that the defendant made a plea in mitigation grounded in her being chronically ill.

“The matters for which she has pleaded guilty are serious ones and I know the court is guided by the stari decisis principle — that is, like cases should be treated alike,” Delplesche said.

He said that there is precedence regarding the sentencing of people who violated their positions of trust.  “And that is the direction I am thinking,” Delplesche said.

He, however, added:

“But this defendant seems to have a peculiar case so I would say if the defendant could produce medical evidence as to the condition from which she is suffering, the court would be better informed and will be in a better position to make the appropriate decision on sentencing.

“I also know — going back to the — principles of stari decisis, cases where persons have presented medicals to mitigate.”

The defendant then told the court that while at the Criminal Investigations Department during the investigation, she had given copies of her medical records to the investigator, detective Corporal Dwight James.

Jones-Ellis told the court that she was discharged from the hospital last week Thursday and the discharge letter details her condition.

The chief magistrate’s reaction came after perusing the medical document presented to the court.

“Your medical situation is very serious,” the chief magistrate said, adding that the woman seems to be between life and death.

The chief magistrate, however, said that her comments were not intended to trivialise the serious nature of the charges.

At this point Jones-Ellis began to cry.

Earlier, Jones-Ellis — while awaiting arraignment — and other persons in the court had laughed as a witness testified in a preliminary inquiry about hiding his jewels and money as armed robbers came into a shop.

The witness said he had in his hand a parcel of sugar he had gone to the shop to buy and he asked the robbers if they wanted that and they said no.

The chief magistrate told Jones-Ellis she hates it and takes a stern position with people violate positions of trust.

“There is a word with three letters that one can always use: ‘ask’,”, the magistrate said.

She noted that once convicted of such a crime, it causes a stain on the person’s reputation and the good that they might have done is no longer remembered.

The chief magistrate suspended the hearing for a few moments to review sentencing precedence in similar and not-so-similar cases.

When the hearing resumed, the chief magistrate noted that the defendant had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and had expressed remorse.

Browne noted that Jones-Ellis has no previous convictions, adding that the guilty plea also earned the woman one-third discount on the sentence that the court was considering.

She, however, said that the aggravating features were that the woman violated a position of trust, especially one held at a school, where students look up to her as a mentor.

Browne, however, noted that the maximum sentence under the section under which Jones-Ellis was charged was two months in imprisonment.

She said that she was not considering a custodial sentence as a first resort.

The chief magistrate, therefore, ordered Jones-Ellis to repay the government EC$210 forthwith or spend one week in jail.

She was given until July 31, 2019 to repay the sums of EC$14,310 and EC$13,915 or spend nine months in jail on each charge.
The sentences will run concurrently.

“I do hope all goes well with you medically because I don’t know what will happen,” the chief magistrate told the woman after handing down the sentences.

iWitness News understands that Jones-Ellis was scheduled to see a doctor in New York on the day she appeared in court.

14 replies on “Teacher steals $28,000 from school to pay medical bills”

  1. For the first time, I am dumbfounded and speechless.

    I empathize with her illness. However, stealing monies that do not belong to you is not right and I cannot support this no matter what. The popular ” Go Fund Me” website, Barbeques, Cake sales et al, if not considered ought to have been considered by the defendant.

    I really feel sorry for her and hope she gets some help medically. However, these acts will surely leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many going forward.

    The prosecutor and the Magistrate were very lenient and compassionate.

    However, because of her past decisions, the defendant now has to raise additional monies for her current treatment, repay the monies stolen AND has a conviction, which I am sure can affect your ability to travel to the USA going forward.

    Did the ends justify the means? #rhetoricalquestion

  2. Did the registrar who stole money from the government some yrs ago pay back all the money? Was the registrar sick? I’m not condoning what this lady did but it seems there’s a blatant double standard in Vincy in the way justice in meted out . Hope the lady would start a go fund me page..I’ll make a donation for sure..haters and dutty minded people: the floor’s all yours.

    1. Ms. Sylvia, two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, Tamara repaid all the monies and was fined. She also just like this lady has a criminal conviction. Tamara was WRONG. She did the crime and she surely paid the fine, albeit no time!

      THEFT IS THEFT AND THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHO OR WHY.

      The lady was sick. Yes but now look at the consequences of her actions. She is now worse off than she was before. She is sick yes but now what with a record??

      This is why the society is the way it is. We like to draw analogies and condemn and condone as it is convenient.

      The suggestion of go fund me page etc, always existed before. Why she didn’t choose this avenue?

      WRONG IS WRONG!!!!

      1. Vincy lawyer you need to reread before you respond. There is no condoning wrong. But , jail time is a real possibility for this Teacher. Most people I’ve spoken with believed that Jail time was highly unlikely for the lawyer. Plus how come you are so sure that those moneys were repaid. The rest of us have never seen evidence to support that. Our justice system seems to protect the political elite again and again. The rest of us well crapaud smoke out pipe.

      2. Vincy Lawyer, what world do you live in? You say it has nothing to do with who and why. Have you never been to court? Have you ever heard or “motive”? It has everything to do with who and why, that is a reason why we have courts, otherwise we would just have to look at a list of crimes and what the punishment should be. I doubt you are a lawyer at all or else you would not make such stupid statements.
        Sylvia Lennox makes a good point and your protecting your ULP Party makes you look like a fool. The Registrar got off very easy and she actually did not pay all the money back and she now has a different job making more money than before! I guess to your kind that is justice! ULP Privilege.

      3. Muse, what was Mrs. Marks sentence? Give it to me in its entirety!!!

        Go do that research and let’s talk. I read and I re-read. I will wait!

      4. Jamal, I comment on this site because it is my free will. My legal work speaks daily in the numerous courts that I attend. I know what motive is and I also know more than you know that is why I can make my comments publicly and without fear of prosecution etc.

        By the way? Who pretends to be a lawyer anonymously? What do I have to gain? Do you hear me having lengthened discussions on matters of medicine or finance? Show me where any of my comments are not legally sound?

        We do come from two different worlds. In mine, empathy does not always equate legally. The same line of sentencing given to Mrs. Jones-Ellis was also given to Mrs. Marks. Pay the fine or else, imprisonment. In addition, I was just as vocal with Mrs. Marks. I have no empathy or sympathy for thieves….NONE!!!

        IWN allows one to do searches of his page. Put in the Registrar’s name (as I did) and see if the sentencing was equal in terms of payment in lieu of imprisonment. Sometimes, I wish some of you will fact find before you come on here. I am trained in facts and though, I do not know everything, do know that once I write something publicly, its because it can be defended and substantiated.

        FYI: I have no party affiliations! Some of us can be independent thinkers you know….try it someday!

  3. Where is C. Ben to tell us that economics has nothing to do with crime? What about this case? He certainly lost when talking about that Phillips guy who [allegedly] did all those robberies. Now Phillips is suspected of murder in order to rob that lady in Sharpes. When Phillips [alledgedly] stole those puppies, C Ben said “see, it is not economics.” He cannot figure out that Phillips was [allegedly] trying to trade a puppy or two, to get an iPhone and to possibly sell that for cash.
    C. Ben has made such a fool of himself that now I question his information about the airport. He is just so obsessed with trying to make the NDP look bad so that we all vote for the lesser of two evils, his ULP party.

  4. Reading this story about her health status make me became emotional almost burst into tears regarding this lady health status. I am not saying what she’d was the right thing to do however this lady is battling a life treatning illness than can resulting in death. I do hope,trust and pray that she be able to raise the amount to repay the court with their decision. There are so many top class Citizens defrauding the government monies with no accountability but this lady who has a health issue trying to see whatever avenues she can court on her back. What good for the gueese good for the ganda . Please audience who going to read my post I don’t want to leave a bad impression about my post . I am not saying what she did was the right thing it’s wrong i condone anyone that make their eyes,fingers and hands covetous on the other hand situation like this allow people to do desperate tbings . In the first place if SVG did have proper health care facility to deals with chronic illness such as her I am sure she wouldn’t have lead to this alternative. The government part of this problem. Is the government rights to ensure their Citizens have proper health care, education ,proper housing etc

  5. Mica country Montreal, Quebec Canada says:

    My advice to you madam trust God and he will direct and sustain yr part Tears of a language God understand. I am quite sure you learnt yr lesson . The Scriptures stated ask it would given ,seek and you shall find knock door will b open . In the future when life’s situation such as this overwhelming this is not the right Re- course . Hope u set up.go fund me page Ii certainly will donate. Be of good courage, we all make mistakes .

  6. First of all, she was the librarian. She not only stole money from the government but also from the school. A little birdie told me that she was a government worker who [allegedly] stole money from the government. The school did not know that she lost her Job for [allegedly] from the government when they hired her.

  7. Vince lawyer you’ll you agree with me that the penalty that the teacher received sets a bad precedent. She should get a custodial sentence along with having to pay back the full amount. Remember the full amount stolen must be repaired, with interest or to the the full amount is not being repaid. The full amount equal principal plus interest.

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