Source Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – A 23-year old man with a history of stealing from his employers received a stern warning in the Court in First Instance yesterday for – this time – stealing electronics from the suitcases of airline passengers while he was working as a baggage handler for Menzies at Princess Juliana international airport. One of his trophies – a MacBook Air– became his downfall because its rightful owner tracked the laptop from her smartphone to the defendant’s home.
Reynaldo Devon Illidge, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Boxing Day, was lucky that it took so long before his case came to court; the fact stem from the period of December 1, 2014 to March 25, 2015. “If this had been done faster and you would still have been detained I would have sent you away for twelve months,” the judge said. But because of the time lapse, the court followed the public prosecutor’s demand and sentenced Illidge to 174 days of imprisonment with 100 days suspended, 3 years of probation and 120 hours of community service. The defendant already spent 74 days in pretrial detention, so he does not have to go back to jail.
The defendant acknowledged to the court what he had done and took away the illusion that baggage handling is done by two employees to prevent theft. “One is outside, and one is inside,” Illidge told the court.
After his arrest, Menzies sacked the defendant, but he has in the meantime found new employment. In 2013, Illidge was sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment with 5 months suspended for stealing from his then employer Kooyman.
The public prosecutor considered the charges – theft of electronics and fencing of a laptop – proven. “This is not just another theft,” the prosecutor said. This is an integrity violation that has been going on for months at the airport. Everybody who works there has to be of irreproachable behavior. The defendant has put the trust of his employer to shame by searching suitcases and taking valuable items out of them. For the victims this is not only the loos of goods, but also the loss of data.”
Attorney Geert Hatzmann considered the prosecutor’s demand to be exaggerated. “My client made between $900 and $1,000 a month – just above the welfare minimum. He was 21 when all this happened and he is the man of the house, taking care of his mom and his sister, because his father is a drug addict. He was under enormous pressure; that should count. Do not judge him too harshly. If he had made a decent salary this would never have happened.”
Hatzmann criticized the long time it took to bring the case to court and said that his client had confessed to the crimes rather quickly.
The prosecutor retorted that there is no connection between the defendant’s salary and the charges. “That is nonsense. This is not a draconic demand; the defendant is getting a soft deal, considering that this is the second time he steals from an employer.”
The court considered the charges proven. The judge did not have a lot of sympathy for the defense arguments. “If the defendant was not happy with his salary he should have looked for another job.”
On another level, the court qualified the type of theft as damaging to the island. “Stealing from luggage at the airport affects the interests of all St. Maarteners. Before you know it, nobody wants to come here anymore because luggage gets stolen. This happens in the Netherlands as well and considering everything, the prosecutor’s demand is extremely mild.”
“This was twice,” the judge told the defendant after he gave his decision. “If I see you here for the third time, things are going to end differently.”