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Gang boss says he’s broke

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UCHENCE Wilson, the 30-year-old convicted leader of the St Catherine-based gang named after him — which is credited with terrorising people in several parishes over a number of years and amassing millions of dollars in spoils — yesterday declared himself flat broke.

Addressing trial judge, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, following an oral application by the Crown under section 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), Wilson — who had just been sentenced to 26 years behind bars — told the court that he had no wealth stashed anywhere.

“Can I say something, My Lord? All of this what is rising right now is because of my girlfriend trying to get back her car. The car is not in my name; the car is in her cousin’s name. She deh a road a suffer; she and the kids dem. So, because dem want tek weh har car, maybe all of this a rise off that, ’cause dem know mi nuh have no money, enuh, M’Lord,” Wilson said.

“Yuh know mi a sufferer, trying, always working. If they waan investigate mi for any money or anything, they can. She nuh have nothing; she a suffer,” he persisted.

Wilson’s girlfriend, who had been among the original 24 individuals arrested in 2017 and taken before the courts to face charges in relation to the gang’s operations, was released several weeks ago after the evidence against her collapsed.

Under section 5 of the Proceeds of Crimes Act, whenever an individual is convicted of any offence in a criminal proceeding, the Crown is allowed to make an application for a pecuniary penalty order, which essentially is asking the court’s permission to have a benefit hearing to establish whether or not any benefit was derived from the criminality of the individual.

Responding to Wilson’s plea, Chief Justice Sykes said, “Then, if it is so, and they investigate, if you don’t have anything, you don’t have anything, and that’s just how it is. But it is an application they have made, which the law allows, so we will see whether they follow through or not, I don’t know.”

Yesterday, a resigned-looking Wilson, who was convicted on nine of the 34 counts with which he had been charged, was sentenced to 26 years behind bars, but could spend only 17 on account of “good behaviour”.

He was convicted for being the leader of the criminal outfit, among other things, and was slapped with 11 years each for the first seven counts addressed by the judge, which will run concurrently. He was then slapped with 11 and 15 years on another two counts, which will also run concurrently with the other counts, but was also given a consecutive 11-year sentence for his role as leader of the gang, which will kick in after the other sentences elapse.

Chief Justice Sykes, in response to a query from attorney Lloyd McFarlane as to whether he would consider the “totality principle” — which holds that the aggregate of the sentences should not substantially exceed the normal level of sentences for the most serious of the offences involved — said, “The legislation has indicated that leadership must be treated seriously.”

In assessing the details concerning Wilson during the sentencing, the chief justice said it was clear that whatever other lawful activity he was involved in “he also had another dimension”.

“From the evidence given…it is reasonable to conclude that Mr Wilson was one of the driving forces behind the organisation… The evidence showed he was the man to organise and formulate strategies, almost on the spot. He was the one, even when they were coming from failed operations, he had that kind of eye that would spot opportunities,” the chief justice said.

Wilson, he said, was not the kind of man who wilted under pressure, but was calm and able to respond to situations as they unfolded.

In the meantime, Odeen Smith, 34, was sentenced to four years each on the two counts for which he was convicted. The sentences will run concurrently, making it so that he will only serve four years.

Another gang member, Lanworth Geohagen, was sentenced to six years for each of the two counts for which he was convicted. The sentences will run concurrently, therefore he will only serve six of the total 12 years.

Derron Taylor was sentenced to eight years each on the three counts for which he was convicted. The sentences will also run concurrently, so he will only serve eight years, instead of 24 years.

And, 24-year-old Michael Lamont, the youngest of the lot, who was found guilty on four counts, was sentenced to seven years on one count, 10 years on another, and 11 years on another count. Those counts are to run concurrently. However, he was sentenced to five additional years on account of evidence pointing to the fact that he was ranked highly in the gang and had moved up the ranks quickly and was entrusted with a firearm.

Gang member Machel Goulbourne was sentenced to eight years each on the two counts for which he was found guilty. The sentences will run concurrently, so he will only spend eight years behind bars instead of 16.

Thirty-seven-year-old mason, steel man, and farmer Stephenson Bennett was sentenced to five years each on the two counts for which he was convicted. With the sentences to run concurrently.

Gang member Sheldon Christian, who was convicted on two counts, was sentenced to five years for each count. The sentences are also to run concurrently.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy Scott, the alleged second-in-command of the criminal outfit, who was convicted on one count, received a discounted sentence of five years behind bars, down from nine, having already spent roughly four years in custody since the time of his arrest in 2017.

Wilson and 23 others were arrested by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC) in 2017 and were said to be part of one of the island’s most organised and vile gangs that was responsible for robberies, extortion, rapes, murders, and the theft of a number of licensed firearms.

By the end of the trial in October this year 15 of them had been acquitted and nine convicted under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act or anti-gang legislation which was relied on in the matter.

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