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Immigration officer charged for extortion

GeneralImmigration officer charged for extortion

Photo: Monique Meisha Escalante

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 25, 2024

Tonight, a junior immigration officer of Santa Rita Village, Corozal is out on bail after she was arraigned this morning in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court on Coney Drive on a single charge of extortion, allegedly from a Jamaican national travelling through Belize via the Philip Goldson International Airport in Ladyville.

At around 10:00 a.m., 31-year-old Monique Meisha Escalante, an immigration officer of Santa Rita Heights, Corozal Town, was brought to court in the prison van after being detained over the weekend pending investigation into the alleged extortion.

An hour later, at around 11:14 a.m., Escalante, in the presence of her attorney, Audrey Matura, appeared before a Senior Magistrate in Court # 2 where she was read a charge of extortion.

There was no objection to bail by the prosecutor who was represented by D. Staine of the Prosecution Branch Office.

With that, the Senior Magistrate of Court #2 offered bail to Escalante in the sum of $8,000 plus one surety of the same amount or two sureties of $4,000, each with conditions.

Escalante’s bail conditions are that she is to surrender her travel documents to the Clerk of Court; she cannot apply for any other travel documents without seeking permission of the court; she cannot leave the country without the permission of the court; she is not to contact the virtual complainant (v/c) or any of his family members or any other prosecution witnesses, whether directly or indirectly; she is not to be within 50 feet of the v/c; and she must report to the Racoon Street Police Station every Friday of the week, effective this Friday, March 29, 2024.

Escalante met bail by 12:00 noon.

Outside the courtroom, her attorney, Audrey Matura told us that the arrest of her client is a scapegoat situation, and that authorities need to look deeper into the real issue that has been an ongoing hustling of persons by immigration officers, but that her client is innocent.

According to Matura, “It is interesting what’s happening. And if the Department believes there is a problem up at the Philip Goldson International Airport, then they need to look into it instead of going after my client.”

The police report on the incident comes from a statement given by the alleged victim, Jahnoi Shaun-Dhee Richards, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, at about 3:00 p.m.

Richards, 27, a Jamaican cook, visited the Ladyville Crimes Investigation Branch Office and reported that on Friday, March 15, 2024, sometime between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., whilst at the Philip Goldson International Airport, a female immigration officer who wore a grey sweater draped over her official clothing, demanded that he place money inside his passport, and made threats of repercussions if he (Richards) failed to comply.

Richards said that when he was reluctant to comply, the female officer began to inquire into his financial status.

According to Richards, he became fearful that he would be detained and would not be able to leave the airport, and so he discreetly placed a total of $3,000 dollars in US currency in $100 US bills within his passport and gave it to the female immigration officer.

A statement was recorded from Richards, and an investigation was carried out where the surveillance camera system was viewed at the Philip Goldson International Airport whereby Monique Escalante was identified.

Several other immigration officers were detained, interviewed and later released.

On Thursday, March 21, 2024, Monique Escalante was detained for extortion and an interview was conducted with her where she was asked if she would partake in an identification parade, which she refused.

On Saturday, March 23, 2024, Escalante was officially charged by police with extortion.

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