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American pastor and wife charged for not declaring over US $20,000 at Customs

Gary West and his wife Evelyn Patnaude-West pleaded guilty to the charge

This morning, American nationals Pastor Gary West, 68, and his wife, retired nurse aid Evelyn Patnaude-West, 67, both pleaded guilty to failing to declare a large sum of money when they arrived at the Philip Goldson International Airport last Friday.

According to the report, the couple arrived in Belize from the United States on Friday, and at 12:05 p.m., while at the Customs Desk, they were asked if they had anything to declare, to which they replied no.

The customs officer decided to search the luggage of Patnaude-West and found US$21,000 which had not been declared. A search of West led to the discovery of US$7,000 inside the left pocket of his pants and US$300 in his wallet, which also had not been declared.

The couple was represented by attorney Ellis Arnold, who made a mitigation plea on their behalf. He expressed the couple’s complete remorse for entering the country without declaring the money, but the couple told the court that they honestly did not know that they had to declare the money.

Arnold also asked the court to consider that the couple did plead guilty and so did not waste the court’s time, and also that this would make them first-time offenders in our country.

After hearing the mitigation plea, Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser then fined Patnaude-West $5,000, to be paid forthwith, and her husband, West, was fined $1,000, also to be paid forthwith. The couple was able to pay both fines.

Persons travelling are reminded that when travelling in and out of the country, they are required to declare monies amounting to over US $5,000 or BZ $10,000, and that it is an offense not to do so.

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