Chimeka Gibbs at a previous court appearance.
Photo: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER College of the Bahamas employee Chimeka Gibbs was unanimously convicted by a Supreme Court jury yesterday for stealing over $600,000 from the college over a seven-year period.
The nine-member jury returned a 9-0 guilty verdict on all 24 counts Gibbs was charged with: eight of stealing by reason of employment and 16 of falsification of accounts, concerning her actions between 2008 and 2015.
Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson said Gibbs will be sentenced on Friday. Gibbs, whose bail was revoked when the jury left to deliberate on a verdict, was remanded into custody until that time.
Yesterday marked the end of the trial for Gibbs, who was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars between March 2008 and October 2015 while serving as an employee at COB.
According to court documents, Gibbs served as both a senior clerk and a human resources assistant at the college.
The jury was told Gibbs stole over $600,000 from COB by reason of her employment at the institution. The jurors were also told Gibbs falsified numerous COB direct deposit files, the result of which purported to show she was entitled to over $200,000 in salary payments.
According to the evidence given at trial, Gibbs accomplished the latter feat by manipulating the information contained on certain documents to be submitted to the Bank of the Bahamas on behalf of COB.
As a result, Gibbs received up to $13,000 over and above her monthly net salary of $2,395 between 2008 and 2015. In total, Gibbs paid herself $640,000 extra between those seven years to various bank accounts at Commonwealth Bank, Scotiabank FirstCaribbean International Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Yesterday, Gibbs’ attorney Roger Gomez Jr said his client was nothing but a “scapegoat” in the whole ordeal, as he suggested the impossibility of Gibbs stealing such a large amount of money from “the country’s institution” over such a long period of time without so much as raising a red flag until years later.
Mr Gomez further questioned why neither the then-college’s president and its vice president of finance did not give evidence during the trial, as every document Gibbs would have submitted to BOB had to have been accompanied by a letter signed by both individuals.
Thus, Mr Gomez said his client was effectively “thrown under the bus” and made to take the fall for the misappropriated COB funds, which he contended was instead the end result of the “sloppy” and inefficient manner the country’s funds were being managed.
“Somebody had to put the smoking gun in my client’s hand,” Mr Gomez said.
However, Crown prosecutor Al-Leecia Delancey, who was assisted by Antania Rolle-Taylor, submitted that Gibbs was guilty of the “cold, callous and continuous” theft of COB’s funds, and that there was no reason that could justify the amount of money Gibbs received when compared with her take-home salary between 2008 and 2015.
Ms Delancey further submitted that it makes no sense for each bank Gibbs was affiliated with to have a glitch in their respective systems that would result in her receiving all that extra money for seven years without her knowing. And even if was the result of a bank error, Ms Delancey questioned why Gibbs didn’t report it to her seniors.
Ms Delancey thus said COB was “hoodwinked, bamboozled” and led astray by Gibbs’ actions for those seven years, all while she “ran amuck” in the college’s payroll department and was “balling” off the extra money she received.
“She has no excuse for her actions,” Ms Delancey said.