(CMR) Irene Garcia will be sentenced later this month for stealing almost $10,000 from her Filipino clients through Global Travel Consulting Agency. Garcia appeared before Magistrate Phillipa McFarlane last Wednesday where the judge heard arguments for her sentencing. It appears that Garcia will be headed to jail.
Magistrate McFarlane heard the details of her offenses which include her early guilty plea in November 2021. The Crown laid out the case for the court which they said was particularly egregious because Garcia took advantage of her fellow countrymen who could ill afford the tickets which ran in the thousands of dollars. Four victims lost a combined $9,610.00 from Garcia deceptions.
The court heard how Garcia purposely sought out clients from within the Filipino community, gained their trust and then misappropriated funds that they gave her for the sole purpose of purchasing airline tickets. Her deception ran its course for almost an entire year and involved four victims, doctoring tickets and itineraries, and in one case doctoring a fake online bank deposit.
The first victim was a sales clerk and purchased two tickets to return to the Philippines for $1,800 in November 2020. This victim was told that the flight via New York had been canceled. However, it was later discovered that because of the shutdown of the airport due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flight never existed.
The victim only became aware that there was an issue when she contacted Garcia two days before the scheduled flight date. Magistrate McFarlane queried how Garcia was able to issue a ticket in those circumstances. The crown noted that this proved a level of sophistication with the scam that Garcia was operating. It was also revealed that this was the only victim to have received a partial refund of $1,000.
The second victim worked as a security guard and he met Garcia at the immigration office in December. She informed him that she worked for a local travel agency and would be able to assist him with any travel needs that he had. He then purchased two inbound tickets for his friends for $5,035 and transferred the funds to her personal account into separate payments.
He was issued two fake tickets and travel itinerary and Garcia claimed that the booking was for sometime in February. The court heard that it was Paula Brown, the owner of the business, that discovered the booking did not exist after the victim made some inquiries. Garcia informed this particular victim that it would take 2 to 4 months for his refund to be issued. To date he has not received any money.
As a result of this theft those persons were unable to come to the island and there was a loss of work permits and job opportunities.
Victim number three was a construction helper and paid $1,305 for two tickets, repeating the same pattern of behavior and he was promised a refund in two weeks. At one point Garcia phoned the victim and claimed that she had the money but had spent it all.
The fourth and final victim was a landscape gardener who purchased tickets in January 2020 for $1,475 and he also received his travel itinerary for a nonexistent flight. He was promised that he would receive his full refund upon approval from the company.
In this instance, she actually sent him a screenshot showing payment was made online to his bank account prompting him to go into the bank to confirm the receipt of the money only to find out that somehow she doctored that screenshot.
Garcia was arrested in 22 April 2021 and gave a statement admitting to taking the money and claim that she ran into financial difficulties because of the pandemic. Magistrate McFarlane inquired as to why she did not simply return home like many others had instead of stealing from others.
The crown submitted that this was case involved a high degree of culpability (Category A offense) because of the victims lack of resources and the sophistication of the methods used to deceive them. The judge also made note of the particular difficulties that people were facing due to the COVID pandemic.
The crown also argued that there was a high degree of harm not necessarily because the total amount was significant but because it was a substantial loss to these particular individuals and noted that criminals must take their victims as they find them.
Ironically the defense attorney, Kathleen Ryan, completely agreed with the Crown's position that a custodial sentence was appropriate in the circumstances and shared she was trying to sell land in the Philippines to compensate her victims.
The lawyer also noted that there was a medium value of money taken but admitted there were significant aggravating factors. She stated that there was a higher than usual amount of harm.
In mitigation, her lawyer stated that her previous employer was willing to rehire her in her janitorial business and that demonstrated a large degree of trust that she had in her as an employee.
The judge made notes that the employer's position was “quite unrealistic” because anyone sentenced to prison she was unlikely to obtain a work permit. However in summary the judge said that was not a matter for her to consider for sentencing.
Attorney Ryan noted that she had been ostracized by the community and is now in the Cayman Islands unexpired work permit. She also shared that she was very remorseful and that she had spent hours consoling her after she admitted to the offenses that she was suffering from insomnia, depression and anxiety and felt suicidal. The judge reminded her that all of this was a result of the actions of her client.
Whilst getting instructions in the dock about her next court date Garcia pulled down her mask and began crying. She was observed by CMR's court reporter wearing a Gucci emblem belt, Chanel crusted shoes and Louis Vuitton handbag.
Her sentencing is scheduled for January 26.
Her victims have spoken exclusively to CMR sharing that they hope the judge is not fooled by her crocodile fake tears and she was always trying to live above her means. In fact, she had bragged to them about not needing their money and how much her LV bag costs and the land and condos she owns in the Philippines.