By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER bank employee Reno Bethel was arraigned in Magistrate’s Court yesterday over nearly 100 additional fraud related charges stemming from a multi-million dollar theft scheme at Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) uncovered earlier this year.
Bethel, a former employee of FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB), stood before magistrate Samuel McKinney facing 93 new fraud-related charges stemming from the five-month scheme.
The charges included 35 each of possession of a forged document and uttering a forged document, 18 of fraud by false pretences, two of attempted fraud by false pretences, and three of money laundering.
Yesterday’s arraignment came just over two months after the 34-year-old was initially arraigned on 47 fraud related charges stemming from the BPL fraud investigation. The total number of charges he is faced with now stands at 140.
It is alleged that between February 27 and May 5 of this year, Bethel obtained a total of $1,062,330.05 from BPL’s bank account held at Scotiabank while at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) on John F Kennedy (JFK) Drive.
It is also alleged that on May 4 of this year, Bethel attempted to defraud BPL of a total of $109,147.80 from its Scotiabank account while at FCIB on JFK Drive.
It is further alleged that between March 30 and April 7 of this year, Bethel converted $200,000 of Bahamian currency to American currency, and then transferred it to an account in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada. He also allegedly converted $6,500 of Bahamian currency to Canadian currency and transferred it to an account held at TD Canada Trust in Ontario within that period of time.
It is further alleged that between February 8 and April 20 of this year, Bethel uttered numerous forged Scotiabank cheques totaling $1,496,005.09 from the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s account and made them payable to various entities including Bahamas Crane and Concrete Pumps, KS Civil Engineers, HRT Rentals, Bahamas Industrial Equip Sales and Re, Bahamas Heavy Machinery and Trucking, the Bobcat Specialist, Enviro Tank, and Scuderia Electrical via either RBC or FCIB.
It is also alleged that between those same dates, Bethel was in possession of multiple forged Scotiabank cheques totaling $1,496,005.09, which were drawn from BEC’s account and made payable to the aforementioned entities.
Bethel pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He was subsequently remanded to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS) to await his trial on March 26 and 27.
Bethel was one of three men sought by police on the weekend for questioning in connection with the BPL fraud investigations.
The RBPF circulated a notice on November 10 requesting the public’s assistance in locating the three men in connection with the alleged fraud scheme. Police later reported that Bethel turned himself in to the Central Detective Unit (CDU) shortly before 1pm on Monday, accompanied by his attorney.
In September, Bethel was arraigned in connection with the fraud scheme. At the time, he stood before then-Magistrate Andrew Forbes facing 23 counts of fraud by false pretences, 23 counts of receiving and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false pretences.
That arraignment stemmed from previous reports that a nearly $2m fraud scheme had been uncovered that involved cheques paid out to various vendors from December 16, 2016 to May 9. This prompted a wide-ranging audit by Ernst and Young of the electricity provider.