Pawnshop exec surprised ‘valuable’ employee arrested

Pawnshop exec surprised ‘valuable’ employee arrested

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 12, 2019

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AN executive of a Corporate Area pawnshop where members of the Uchence Wilson Gang had allegedly pawned stolen items, testified yesterday that she was surprised when one of the company’s top sales agents was arrested.

The former employee in question, Ricardo Serju, was arrested along with his co-worker Jermaine Stewart in December 2017. Both are charged with knowingly providing a benefit to a criminal organisation and facilitating serious offences by a criminal organisation.

According to a former member of the gang, who was the first witness in the trial which is before Chief Justice Bryan Sykes in the Home Circuit Court, he and other members of the gang took stolen items to the pawnshop and the transactions were done by both men, who he claimed knew that the items were stolen.

The two accused are being tried along with the reputed gang leader Uchence Wilson and 21 alleged gang members, on various charges under the Criminal Justice Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act (Anti-Gang Legislation) and the Firearms Act.

However, during the trial yesterday, the pawnshop executive, who had told the court on Wednesday that both men were senior sales and loan agents at the company who always met their monthly targets and budget, under cross-examination from Serju’s attorney Jacqueline Cummings, said she was surprised at Serju’s arrest. She said, too, that he was a valuable employee.

The witness also told the court that Serju had been promoted twice by her in 20 17, when she started at the company, as he moved from sales/loan associate to senior sales/loan associate and acting relief manager.

Additionally, she testified that the accused would conduct audits at some of the branches and appraise some of the items.

The pawnshop executive, during her evidence-in-chief, had previously testified that no customer would be allowed to do any transaction with the company if they were unable to produce a receipt for the item or a letter from a Justice of the Peace, to prove ownership.

But yesterday, when asked by Cummings if she knew what percentage of customers went to the Kingston branch with a receipt or letter from a JP, she could not say.

“So would you agree if I say less than five per cent?” Cummings asked.

“I cannot speak to that,” she replied.

During further questions from the attorney, the pawnshop executive indicated that she was the person who had implemented the policy for customers to present a receipt or a letter from a JP to prove ownership of an item when doing a transaction.

When asked what would happen if an associate suspected that an item had been stolen, she said: “The first thing would be to inform the general manager and the general manager would act, and they would not be allowed to do the transaction.”

The witness also testified that the company would blacklist a customer if they brought in an item that was stolen or if an item that they brought in ended up being confiscated by the police.

She also testified under cross-examination that if a customer came in too often, that would be a red flag.

“We take into account why the customer is in need of money all the time, and the ability to pay back,” she explained.

The witness will resume her testimony when the trial restarts on April 25. The trial was adjourned because the Hilary term ends today and the new Easter term will begin on April 24.

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