By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN American couple accused of making a false declaration to a US Customs officer readily chose to walk free with a warning and forfeit $26,000 in winnings from a casino when arraigned before a Magistrate yesterday.
The alternative for 57-year-olds Ritchie and Karen Parotta, of Londonville, New York, was a possible sentence on the charges they faced before Magistrate
Andrew Forbes, making a false declaration and failing to declare their win.
It was claimed that they, on April 13, failed to declare that they were carrying cash in excess of $10,000 into the USA, when in fact they were in possession of $26,324.
According to reports, shortly after 3pm, the two were returning to the United States, when they were detained by US Customs and Border Patrol officials in the Preclearance Departure Lounge at the Lynden Pindling International Airport for failing to declare the excess funds.
The couple had pleaded “guilty with an explanation”.
The magistrate said he would hear the explanation before accepting the plea.
The Parottas claimed that they were unaware that they had to declare their proceeds together and were under the impression that each of them was allowed to declare up to $10,000.
The husband added that they did better at the casinos on this trip than prior ones, but they were not aware that they had won that much money.
“It was our mistake, but we did want to explain how we made the mistake,” Mr Parotta said.
Magistrate Forbes, having heard their explanation, said “the court is not minded to convict you of the charges.”
“You will be free to leave, but you will be free to leave the $26,000 behind. It’s either that or I move to convict you and render a sentence. Which do you prefer?” the magistrate asked.
“We prefer to walk free,” the Parottas answered.
Magistrate Forbes ordered the funds to be forfeited to the Crown and discharged the couple with a warning.