The vigilance of a female Junior Customs Officer may have prevented a sizeable amount of cocaine from hitting the local market just over a year ago.
Stacy Ann Adams, who has been employed with the Customs and Excise Department for ten years, and being Customs Officer for the past three years, made a sharp detection at the baggage room of the main branch at the Kingstown Port, which led to the seizure of 1,810 grams of cocaine contained in one-litre orchard orange juice boxes.
Adams’ action also resulted in the arrest and conviction of 51-year-old Jilcina Susan Debique-Mason of Rose Hall.
Debique-Mason, a female farmer, was charged with possession of the drug with intent to supply, possession for the purpose of drug trafficking, and attempting to import the drug.
Following a trial at the Serious Offences Court on Tuesday, the mother of seven (7), was found guilty on all three counts, and the following day she was sentenced to one year and five months on each charge, to run concurrently. She was convicted and sentenced by Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne. She was unrepresented.
Adams told the Court on Tuesday that while she was attached to the baggage room around 10:30 a.m. on January 11 last year, a lady came up to the counter with two boxes bearing the name Jilcina Debique, and said they were hers.
Adams said that after verifying the name and number, she proceeded to do her examination. She observed a one litre orchard orange juice box in one of the packages. She realized it was hard and not jiggerly, and saw a piece of plastic sticking out of it. She asked Debique-Mason to open it, and she complied.
Adams said she noticed there was a white powdery substance inside. She was unsure what it was, so she called her Supervisor, Eddie DeFreitas, and told him of her observation.
DeFreitas, in his testimony, said that when he went to the baggage room, he met two orchard juice boxes appearing to be abnormal, along with the one Adams noticed to be abnormal.
Debique-Mason told the Customs officials, she didn’t know what it was, and that she was accustomed to collect stuff from Trinidad and Tobago from one Jerome DaSouza.
The Narcotics Unit was called in, and the cargo, as well as Debique-Mason were taken to the drug squad base where a thorough search was conducted.
The three juice boxes were cut open and found to contain transparent packages with cocaine. When weighed, it amounted to 1,810 grams.
Nothing else illegal was found.
The bigger box contained snacks and juices, while the other contained disinfectants, vegetable oil and other stuff.
However, in an electronic interview conducted by Sergeant Irackie Huggins and Corporal Germano Douglas, the Narcotics Officers who were detached to the Kingstown Port, when the police were called in, Debique-Mason said she knew nothing of Jerome DaSouza.
She wept for most of the interview, saying, “me nah know nutten, me nah know nutten, me nah know nutten”.
However, in her evidence to the Court, she said she knew Da Souza since 2013, and he assisted her daughter in sending the box for her from Trinidad and Tobago, as her daughter was working at the time. But the woman told the Court her daughter did not know from whom the boxes were being sent as she could not read nor write.
And though Debique-Mason said she had stayed at her daughter’s home during a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, she could not remember her daughter’s address in that country.
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delpleche described her as a liar, as she kept changing her story.
Sentencing was adjourned to Wednesday so that he could carry out some background checks on Debique-Mason. He confirmed that she had 7 children, including three who were still attending school and a husband who had suffered a stroke.
The Chief Magistrate stressed the seriousness of the offences and the sizeable amount of cocaine.
“You had an awareness of what was going on. Your role was significant”, she told the woman before handing down the sentences. She also stressed the sophisticated nature of concealment, and commended Customs Officer Adams for her vigilance.
Browne said that in addition to adhering to the sentencing guidelines, she was applying the principles of sentencing which came out of certain case laws, and she mentioned some of those cases. Those principles are based on retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation.(VIN)