After spending around seven months in jail, former Region Three official Ameena Marilyn Hinds was yesterday sentenced to time served in connection with cocaine she was found with in her luggage at Houston, Texas in October last year.
She had pleaded guilty on March 2nd this year to a charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.
According to court documents seen by Stabroek News, Judge Sim Lake sentenced Hinds, a former Deputy Regional Executive Officer, to one year which corresponded to the period that she had already been incarcerated.
Unusually, the transcript of the hearing was sealed by the court. Also sealed were the pre-sentence report, the objection to the pre-sentence report by Hinds, the final pre-sentence investigation report and the sentencing recommendation.
She had been ordered detained pending trial as she had been deemed a flight risk.
According to court documents seen by Stabroek News, Hinds arrived at 1.45 pm on October 29, 2016 at George Bush Inter-continental Airport in Houston on United Airlines flight 1250 from Port of Spain, Trinidad. Hinds was sent for a secondary inspection at 2.15 pm.
Customs and Border Protec-tion (CPB) officer S. Martinez undertook the secondary inspection at around 3 pm and Hinds claimed ownership of the luggage. The court documents said that an x-ray examination of the suitcase at around 3.25 pm showed anomalies. The officer then inserted a metal probe into the wall and bottom of the suitcase and discovered a white, powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine.
The court documents said that the CPB officer found what appeared to be packages of cocaine hidden in two sides of the suitcase behind the inner nylon lining. Hinds was then taken into custody and the suspected cocaine was weighed. It amounted to 1.49 kilogrammes.
Hinds, according to the court documents, told Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that she was currently burdened by around US$5,000 of personal debt and had been having difficulty meeting her obligations. She said that in July of last year, she was approached by an “unknown individual,” whom she described as `Mystery Man,’ and she was offered US$2,500 to take a suitcase with drugs to the US. She said that `Mystery Man’ assured her that the drugs would be adequately concealed and that several other persons had successfully transported narcotics.
The court documents said that despite this assurance, Hinds hesitated. She was contacted again by `Mystery Man’ on October 26, 2016 and this time agreed to transport the drugs. She told HSI that she met a female in Guyana who gave her an envelope containing her ticket.
She said she then flew to Trinidad, where she met the ‘Mystery Man’ and her suitcase was exchanged for one containing the drugs. She then flew from Trinidad to Houston on October 29. She further told investigators that ‘Mystery Man’ had instructed that she travel to a hotel in New York, where the suitcase would be collected from her.