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The mother of the defendant Oriette Bobb, left, shields her from media photographers outside the Kingstown Magistrate's Court on Monday, April 22, 2024.
The mother of the defendant Oriette Bobb, left, shields her from media photographers outside the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Monday, April 22, 2024.

A 20-year-old woman who stole EC$2,070.25 in cash from an auto parts store in the four months that she worked there has been spared immediate jail time.

However, the woman, Oriette Bobb, of Mesopotamia, will have to avoid re-offending for the next year, if she is to escape one month and three days in prison. 

On Monday, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, Senior Magistrate Tammika Da Silva-Mc Kenzie ordered Bobb to repay forthwith the sum she had stolen from the store.

The magistrate further suspended the prison sentence for one year.

Bobb, who did not have a lawyer, pleaded guilty to six counts of theft, committed on various dates and in various amounts at the store between March and April.

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She stole the money from Cash Money Investments, at Sion Hill Bay, where she was employed last December.

Bobb stole EC$167.75 on March 15, EC$735.65 on April 9, EC$300.20 on April 10, EC$320.95 on April 12, and EC$315.50 and EC$230.20 on April 16.

“If I were to ask you to pay back these monies today, would you be able to do so?” the magistrate asked Bobb during the sentencing phase of the hearing.

“Yes,” the defendant responded. 

She told the court that she stole the money to assist with groceries and bills where she is staying in Mesopotamia. 

Bobb told the court that she lives with a friend in Mesopotamia, having moved out of her parents’ home.

When asked, she said that she left home voluntarily and her parents did not put her out.

A woman who told the media that she is Bobb’s mother cried in the courtroom during the sentencing, and even more so as she heard the magistrate mention “prison”.

Outside the courtroom, the woman and a man who said he is Bobb’s father, were verbally aggressive to journalists who positioned themselves to attempt to photograph Bobb.

The woman used a large towel to cover Bobb’s face, walked with her back to the media and gave Bobb verbal instructions about where to walk to avoid stumbling over.

During the sentencing hearing, the senior magistrate asked Bobb if it was fair to say that she had recognised and exploited a weakness in the system at the store.

The defendant said this was the case. 

She told the court that she completed secondary school but did not go to community college. 

“I feel sad because the fact that you were able, within such a short space of time, December and March, you recognised that the system has a weakness and you decided to exploit it for your own benefit and others…” Da Silva-Mc Kenzie told the defendant.

The magistrate urged Bobb to use the sentence of the court “as a stumbling block and not as a final sentence”. 

According to the facts, read by Prosecutor acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel, Elton Bailey, the managing director of Cash Money Auto Investments is tasked with managing the daily operations of the Sion Hill Bay store, which has 20 employees. 

In December 2023, Bailey hired Bobb to work at the store as a sales clerk/cashier. 

On April 12, 2024, sometime in the morning, one of the supervisors told Bailey that Bobb had made a false return on an item that was previously purchased at the store. 

This aroused Bailey’s suspicion because Bobb was not authorised to process returns. 

On receiving that information, Bailey investigated the matter and reviewed the CCTV footage for the business from January 2024 to April 2024. 

He found that Bobb had made unauthorised returns on items in March and April. 

The CCTV footage also showed Bobb taking money from the cash register on April 11 and putting it in her pocket. 

He suspected that Bobb was doing something she should not have been doing so Bailey kept her under observation and continued to investigate Bobb, without her knowledge. 

On April 11, there was an excess of EC$320.95 in the cash balance for that day and one of Bobb’s supervisors “confronted” her about the excess. 

Bobb informed the supervisor that a customer had done a return and had also requested that she bring the money to them.

The supervisor handed the money to Bobb.

However, the supervisor contacted the customers, including the one Bobb had said she was supposed to return the money to, and all of them said they had not returned any item that they had purchased.

During the checks, Bailey also discovered that Bobb had done an unauthorised return of an item and entered a credit card transaction whereas the customer had paid via cheque.

Because of whatever Bobb had done, her cash balance was short as she had removed the money from the register, which was equivalent to the transaction.

Her supervisor “confronted” her in respect of this transaction.

Then, on April 16, the date on which Bobb stole two separate sums of cash, she was caught on CCTV taking cash from the register and putting it in her pocket. 

On April 19, Bobb went to Bailey’s office and apologised for the credit card transaction, saying it should have been a cheque transaction.

Bobb further told Bailey that she would repay the money for that transaction. 

Bailey reported the matter to the police and Bobb was later arrested and charged. 

During the investigation, she gave a statement to the police about each of the counts of theft and admitted to each count.

Bobb told police that she had used a co-worker’s account and password without their knowledge and consent to authorise the returns. 

The prosecutor told the court that Bailey had indicated that the store wanted to be repaid the stolen amounts. 

Bobb faced a maximum of two years in prison on each of the charges.

While examining the sentencing guidelines, the magistrate observed that in committing the crimes, Bobb had engaged in repeated activity over a long period, noting that there were six charges spanning months.

“So much so that you graduated to twice in the same day,” Da Silva-Mc Kenzie commented.

The court settled on a starting sentence of  20% of the maximum within a range of between 10 and 30%.

“That means you can go to prison for up to 4.8 months. That is around the middle mark and on the lower end, it can be 2.4 months up to seven months,” the magistrate told Bobb.

“I don’t want you to go to prison. I take into account your age — you are relatively young. It is your first offence,” she further said, but added that Bobb had committed “many offences for the first time. 

“Please don’t come back here for this or for anything else,” Da Silva-Mc Kenzie told the defendant. 

She said aggravating of the offence was that the theft had occurred over some time and Bobb had attempted to conceal her action.

There were no mitigating features of the offence or aggravating features of the offender.

Mitigating of the offender was her previous good character, her age, her early guilty plea, her remorse in that she apologised to her boss and she assisted the police. 

The magistrate began the sentence at  15% of two years — about 3.6 months.

The court granted Bobb a full one-third discount for her guilty plea and further deducted the three days that Bobb spent on remand. 

At 2:38 p.m., the magistrate ordered Bobb to repay the money by 3 p.m. (the time at which the court’s cash office closes) so as to avoid three weeks in prison.

In making the order, the magistrate noted that Bobb had said she could repay the EC$2,070.25 by the end of the day.

“What I should be doing is sending you to prison for about one month. Like I said, it is your first offence and I would like to give you a chance not to have to experience that,” Da Silva-Mc Kenzie told Bobb.

“So, I am going to put the keys in your hand. If you want to go and spend the month and half of a week in prison, that is totally up to you. So, I am going to sentence you to one month and three days in prison. That sentence would be suspended for one year,” the senior magistrate told the defendant. 

Initially, the magistrate was going to remand Bobb in custody until Friday for sentencing but changed her mind after learning that the defendant had already spent three days in custody.