Monday, December 19, 2016

Snapping Victory From Jaws Of Defeat

Well, Dear Reader, I guess an update is long overdue. Apathy gets the better of us, or maybe it's just me. However, in my months back in Bad City I have had a few cases of possible interest.

I was contacted recently by a barrister whose client was facing some serious criminal charges in relation to the alleged use of a forged document to obtain money from a government grant.

It wasn't a lot of money but the charges had a 10-year, and 7-year, maximum sentence so serious enough for the alleged offender.

As the young man in question was maintaining his innocence in the matter, I was asked to make some local enquiries.

The matter appeared simple and straightforward enough. Mr White (not his real name) had applied for a grant of several thousand dollars in order to relocate to Bad City where he had a job offer, as part of a job placement scheme. In evidence, he had provided a letter from Jones Construction (nope, not their actual name) which confirmed the position in the company and also included the terms of his forthcoming employment.

The letter was signed by one Crystal Williams (not her real name either, as it turned out) who was apparently the  HR manager for Jones Construction.

All was well and good, White got the funds but - for personal reasons - was not able to make the move to Bad City to take up the position. Nor did he inform the government agency who had paid him for the move.

Well, that didn't help White when said agency did some checking and found this out. They called Jones Construction and were informed that no such person as Crystal Williams was employed there, past or present, in any capacity - and there was no record of any job offer made to White.

Charges were laid, lawyers appointed, and there I was.

White maintained that he was given Williams' phone number by a friend (who left the country and was now incommunicado) and all communication with her was by phone.

My role was fairly straightforward - make enquiries with Jones Construction to confirm that no Crystal Williams did ever work there, obtain a copy of their actual letterhead to compare with the letter the prosecution alleged was a forgery, and some other enquiries regarding the mobile phone number for Williams which was now out of service.

Except that right from the start Jones Construction were not interested in being of any assistance. The receptionist wouldn't allow me to speak with anyone in management but insisted I first contact their HR/Legal department - in another city, some 1000km away. Like they will have their fingers on the pulse, I thought.

Clearly this was not going to work the way I planned - a 10 minute meeting over coffee - so I went the back route. I asked around and obtained the contact number of Dave Miller (not real name either), one of the local management team. I phoned him up, explained the situation, and he was amenable to meet the following week.


So, after the weekend, I called him back. No answer. Left a message. No response.


It took a week of calling back again and again before I could get hold of Miller and now the reception was markedly cooler. Turns out after speaking with me he called HR/Legal and was advised not to speak with me further. They had provided information to the Police and would be witnesses for the prosecution.

Well, while the old adage goes "there's no property in a witness" you can't compel someone to speak to you if they don't want to. And Jones Construction might be engaging an an arse-covering maneuver, just in case they look bad.

All was not lost, however, as while I was waiting for Miller I had conducted some research and found a suspiciously similar case where a person had been found guilty some months earlier. Of particular interest was the mention of the name of the recruiter who had provided an offer of employment: Crystal Williams! Unfortunately the article did not mention which company the bogus offer of employment pertained to, nor which recruitment company Williams supposedly worked for.

With some more digging I found out who the lawyer was in that matter and contacted him, told him of the situation and explained that I would really like to speak with his client, if he was amenable.

This was certainly of interest as I could find no direct connection between the two persons charged as both lived on opposite sides of the country, did not seem to have any social connections in common (at least on Facebook and the like) but the offending occurred within a month of each other.

Well, turned out that I never did hear from the second guy either but just as I was about to update the client on the latest dead-end, he tells me to send him an invoice for costs.

Apparently, with the information I had uncovered, he was able to make some further enquiries and then negotiate a deal where the serious charges were dropped and, instead, his client was charged with a lesser offence with a maximum sentence of 12 months.

Although it didn't really feel like it, it was a win. On the downside, I'll never get to know whether Crystal really existed...



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