Five found guilty of Bel Air heist

–to be sentenced today

Jermaine Mitchell, Rayon Jones, Chandraradha Rampersaud, Aubrey Simon, and Hardat Kumar were yesterday found guilty of the July 12, 2011 multi-million-dollar Bel Air Gardens armed robbery committed on Annie Ramsood.

Rampersaud is Ramsood’s mother, while Kumar is her first cousin.

Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, who presided over the case, informed the defendants that their sentencing would be deferred to today to facilitate the presence of defence counsel George Thomas, who is expected to provide the court with mitigating factors for his client Jones.

The jointly-charged quintet were found guilty of two counts of armed robbery. The first charge states that on July 12 at Bel Air Gardens, being armed with a gun, they robbed Annie Ramsood of $1.4 million and US$29,000 ($5.8 million) all totalling $7.2 million

Additionally, they were all further found guilty of robbing Ramsood of a BlackBerry cell phone and a quantity of cash valued $427,000, while being armed with a gun.

Hardat Kumar
Hardat Kumar
Chandraradha Rampersaud
Chandraradha Rampersaud
 Jermaine Mitchell
Jermaine Mitchell

In addition, Mitchell was found guilty of having in his possession one 9 mm pistol and eight rounds of 9 mm ammunition without a firearm and or ammunition licence.

Meanwhile, Simon was found not guilty of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition but guilty of knowingly making a fraudulent imitation by attaching a false number plate to a vehicle.

The defendants, who, with the exception of Simon, were all present in court yesterday appeared visibly shocked on being told by Magistrate Sewnarine-Beharry that the court had found them guilty and as such they would be remanded to prison.

They were all on bail up until the court’s decision was handed down and appeared unprepared for it and surprised to realise that they would not be leaving the court compound in the manner with which they had entered.

When given a chance to raise mitigating factors, Mitchell, 23, a father of six-month-old child who is employed at Banks DIH Limited, said he knew nothing about the robbery. “I getting charged wrongfully all the time and need to be set free,” he stressed.

When asked by the court, he indicated that prior to being granted bail he had been on remand for about six months and had no antecedents which was confirmed by Prosecutor Michael Grant.

Meanwhile, when asked to provide the court with mitigating factors before imposing sentence on him, 22-year-old Jones repeatedly said that he was innocent of the charges levelled against him. It was at this point that the Chief Magistrate informed him as well as the other defendants that the court had found them guilty and that they were being given an opportunity not to say whether they were guilty or not but rather to advance reasons to convince the court why it should be light in imposing sentencing.

Just before this explanation, the magistrate informed the defendants that the court has the jurisdiction to impose a maximum penalty of up to five years for the offences committed.

Jones’ repeated inability to furnish the court with mitigating factors caused the magistrate to ask him if he wanted an opportunity to have his attorney present to provide the mitigating factors. He responded in the affirmative and it was on this basis that the sentencing for all the defendants was deferred to today.

Jones, the father of a one-year-old child, said, “I am shocked at the decision. I wasn’t expecting this, because I am innocent of this charge.”

He had been on remand for about a month and currently has a charge of receiving stolen property pending.

His co-accused were all unrepresented by counsel.

Kumar, 33, who had been on remand for about six months and has two convictions stemming from the present robbery charge regarding perverting the course of justice, begged the court for lenience in imposing sentence citing that he has two minor children.

Meanwhile, 53-year-old Rampersaud, who is also the aunt of Kumar said that she had been in the lock-ups for about six months. She added that her last child, 17, is dependent on her.

Attorney-at-law Shellon Boyce who held for Special Prosecutor Glen Hanoman who was absent at yesterday’s hearing, advanced a number of aggravating factors. She cited the seriousness and prevalence of the offences and the fact that dangerous weapons were used in the commission of the crime.

She asked the court to take into account also the fact that not only was a female the victim of the crime but that minor children were in the house at the time and that they are still traumatised from the incident.

Ramsood is the wife of businessman Malcolm Panday and counsel added too that their business, family life and well-being were all affected by the actions of the defendants.

The lawyer stated too that Rampersaud’s and Kumar’s involvement had damaged family ties.   Rampersaud had been said to be the mastermind behind the robbery.

The prosecution’s facts presented at the first hearing on July 15, 2011, are that on the day in question, Rampersaud, who knew that the complainant and her family would have had the money at their home at that time; contacted Kumar and planned the robbery.

Police Sergeant Lionel Harvey who had presented the facts, had told the court that the two then contacted their other collaborators to execute the robbery. The court heard that Simon changed the original number plate of the vehicle used in the robbery to that of PKK 3700.

As he continued to relay the facts, Harvey said the accused went to Ramsood’s home where they proceeded to rob her of the items mentioned in the charge, holding her at gun-point.

According to Harvey, Ramsood’s husband was at home at the time of the incident but managed to escape and summon the police.

The sergeant said that as the accused left the premises, the police gave chase and after 25 minutes cornered the defendants at the Ocean Spray Hotel, Vlissengen Road.

The accused persons were subsequently arrested and charged. According to Harvey, they were positively identified by the complainant.

In addition to Mitchell, Jones, Rampersaud, Simon, and Kumar; two other co-accused; Rabindranaught Seemangal, and Shawn Hinds were also charged with the robbery.

However, in 2012, Hinds was cleared of the charges against him.

Meanwhile, on September 11, 2012 Seemangal was sentenced to eight years imprisonment after pleading guilty to the charges.

He had initially pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea stating that he committed the robbery because he had two babies and his wife to maintain and no job to do it.

The cases were heard at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.

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