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Low-wage gov’t worker paid $5.5K monthly for prison escapee’s rent

Low-wage gov’t worker paid $5.5K monthly for prison escapee’s rent

Renee Smith, one of the persons accused of harbouring the recently recaptured prison escapee, Jose Almestica, allegedly rented the three-bedroom Ballast Bay apartment Almestica stayed in for $5,550 monthly.

But the prosecution pointed to a major financial discrepancy. Prosecutors told the court that Smith, a 33-year-old cashier at the BVI Health Services Authority, only earns a monthly salary of $1,800.

In assessing whether to grant the Smith bail, Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards said, based on the allegations, it appears Smith has access to a cash reserve since her salary did not match the money she reportedly paid for the three-bedroom apartment.

Magistrate Richards said this indicated Smith could afford the means of escaping the territory if she was granted bail. Smith was therefore denied bail.

Allegations


It is alleged that Smith rented the apartment through a rental agency in January of this year,

The court was told the prosecution had a copy of the rental agreement which had the signature of Smith and the name of the agency (which was not disclosed).

The court was also informed that a copy of Smith’s photo identification used for the rental lease was also in possession of the police.

The prosecution alleged that when Smith rented the apartment, she had indicated to the renters that others were expected to join her in the three-bedroom apartment.

It is alleged that she also told the renters no one should visit the apartment without prior consent from her. The court was told that the owners of the apartment had made arrangements for the apartment to be sold. However, Smith allegedly indicated on two separate occasions that it would not be convenient to visit the apartment at those times.

Receipts of payments


The prosecution also told the court they had receipts for the payment of the rent and they were in Smith’s name. The prosecution said they had receipts from January, when the apartment was rented, until November of this year. The court was also told most of the payments were done with cash.

The total payment of rent over the period is said to be a little more than $55,000 which Magistrate Richards indicated was significantly more than Smith’s combined salary over the same timeframe.

Who legally has ownership of apartment’s contents?


The magistrate noted that, from a legal standpoint, the contents found in the apartment would belong to Smith as her name is on the lease.

The prosecution said they found large quantities of guns, cocaine, marijuana and cash.

Meanwhile, the prosecution also alleged that blue vehicle belonging to Smith was seen at the Ballast Bay apartment on December 6 and was used to transport Almestica on other occasions. However, Smith denied having any knowledge of the vehicle when questioned by police officers.

The prosecution also informed the court the police had received information Smith had planned on leaving the territory and she was arrested in the parking lot of the Road Town Ferry Dock.

She was not trying to leave territory, says attorney


However, Smith’s lawyer, Stephen Daniels, contended that the parking lot in which she was found was also used for parking at the hospital where his client worked.

He also said she was with her mother in the parking lot and she did not have any travel documents — which would have been required to leave the territory — in her possession.

Smith is jointly charged with her brother Shamal Smith for harbouring Jose Almestica.

They join Jennifer Smith who is also charged with the same offence. They are facing up to 14 years imprisonment if found guilty.

Smith, in the meantime, returns to court on February 2, 2022.

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