Delay over $100 millionfraud ruling

By LAMECH JOHNSON Tribune Staff Reporter ljohnson@tribunemedia.net A MAGISTRATE delayed her ruling in a $100 million attempted fraud case yesterday to inquire from Supt Elliston Rahming why prison officers disobeyed a direct order from her court to take one of the accused to hospital for treatment. In yesterday's proceedings in Court 10, Nassau Street, Magistrate Guilimina Archer was annoyed that prison officers did not take Steve DeGruiter, a 60-year-old American resident of Indonesia, to hospital after she had issued the order on the advice of prison officials. DeGruiter, with Carol Collins, 50, of Massachusetts and Japanese co-defendants, Hirofumi Tanabe, 57, and, Katsuichi Yufu, 72, were supposed to have received the verdict in their attempted fraud case which began on their arraignment in July 2010. The four are accused of attempting to obtain $100 million cash by false pretences from E F G Bank and Trust through a forged JP Morgan cheque. The crimes were said to have been committed in New Providence on July 8. However, prior to yesterday's proceedings around noon, prison officials sent a notice to the Magistrate indicating that DeGruiter was not in a fit condition to appear in court. And the Magistrate, having seen the accused being wheeled around outside from her vantage point in the courtroom, agreed with the advice and ordered that the Indonesian be taken to hospital. She stood the matter down for two hours to get an update on the request. When the matter was resumed, DeGruiter's defence attorney, Godfrey Pinder, told her that the accused had not been to the hospital, but had been returned to prison. Magistrate Archer asked a nearby prison officer the whereabouts of his senior officer who was responsible for seeing that her order was relayed to prison officials and carried out. However, the officer told the Magistrate that his senior had temporarily returned to Her Majesty's Prison. As a result, he was not in a position to say why the order was not obeyed. The officer admitted that he himself had to wheel the accused in a wheelchair. The Magistrate said she had seen this for herself. Magistrate Archer said that regardless of the situation, prisoners are still to be treated with humanity. "I need to speak with the Superintendent of the Prison about this," she said. At this point, remanded prisoner John Forest asked for permission to speak saying that as the cellmate of the accused, he could possibly help the court understand the full situation behind DeGruiter's condition. Forest said: "He's been deteriorating and I've seen it since we've been sharing the same cell since I've been at the prison for a few months." "A few nights ago, he started throwing up blood on the floor. I called the correction officers and told them about it. They left and they returned with Pepto-Bismol and they told him to walk to the medical ward." "I told them that he could barely stand and we got into an argument." Forest said the prison officers returned with two inmates who were instructed to carry the defendant to the medical ward. "They carried him on their shoulders like a sack of potatoes despite his obvious spinal condition. I'm no doctor, but I know, we know that something is wrong with him." After the cellmate concluded his contribution to the discussion, Magistrate Archer expressed annoyance that "despite the court's order for him to be taken to the hospital, he was taken to the prison". She added: "I want an explanation and I hope it is a good one because it was on their advice that the order was made." She turned to the defendants and told them that the case would be adjourned to Monday, February 13. She said that "hopefully, with all things considered, the ruling will be delivered". She advised Godfrey Pinder to follow up on the matter as she would do the same with a phone call to the chief of the prison. Yufu and Tanabe are represented by Murrio Ducille while Mr Pinder represents the last co-defendant, Carol Collins.


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