Atlee Matute and Deitrick Kingston fined $25,000 each
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 8, 2012
Today, after about six hours of mitigation hearings, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin finally sentenced the convicts of Belize’s largest money laundering scheme – which was unraveled after $1,557,789 was discovered in two suitcases in the home of Michael Coye, located at #12 Johnson Street.
On December 31, 2008, police searched the house and discovered the hidden stash of cash, which they alleged was the proceeds of a money laundering scheme operated by the Coyes through their business, Money Exchange International Limited.
Michael Coye and his daughter, Melonie, were both sentenced to jail time for their involvement in money laundering, while Deitrick Kingston and Atlee Matute were fined for their participation.
After eleven character witnesses testified about the commendable qualities of the four—mentioning, among other things, how hardworking they were, Arthur Saldivar and Richard “Dickie” Bradley both gave mitigating statements on behalf of their clients.
After they were through, the CJ, before passing the sentences, first spoke of what type of crime money laundering is — “a modern crime; a massive scheme to garnish moneys to pay debts in the names of persons who knew nothing of it.”
He said, “It would appear on the surface that no one was hurt, but these things have the ability to weaken economies.”
He then referred to the absence of clear guidelines where punishment for this crime is concerned, then stated that, “This court wishes to be a deterrent to anyone who wishes to commit such offenses.”
Chief Justice Benjamin then spoke to Kingston and Matute, informing them that although six receipts entered as evidence had their signatures, there was no evidence that they gained any of the proceeds from the crime. They were then given a non-custodial sentence and fined $25,000 each, or 3 years in prison. They are to each pay $10,000 on or before November 1, 2012, and the balance is to be paid in $500 installments starting December 1, 2012.
The corporate defendant, Money Exchange International Limited, was then ordered to pay $100,000 forthwith.
Then the CJ spoke to Melonie Coye, and described her as the “mastermind of the whole operation; the mover and shaker of the entire scheme.” He went on to say that no element of remorse was shown by her for her crime, and that the sentence must act as a deterrent.
She was then handed a 3-year sentence, and a fine of $50,000 was also imposed on her. The fine must be paid within one year of her release, or she will have to spend another year in prison.
Michael Coye was the last person to be sentenced, and Chief Justice Benjamin told him, “I find it disturbing that the court had to listen to such an improbable explanation,” referring to his explanation of why the money was in the suitcases.
Coye had told the court that back in the 1980’s, there were some irregularities with the banks in Belize. At the time, he thought it was a good idea to withdraw all his money from the bank and keep it at home instead.
After consulting with an attorney friend of his, who told him that it wasn’t a good idea, but not illegal, he went ahead and withdrew the money. He further explained that the 1.5 million dollars was amassed over a period of forty years – through the sale of three properties for $400,000, $380,000 and $250,000 each; an inheritance of $380,000 from his mother when she died; and savings from himself, his wife and his son.
He was then sentenced to 3 years in prison, and a fine of $25,000 was imposed on him. His fine is also to be paid within one year of his release, or he will have to spend another year in prison.