A VENEZUELAN man who spent two extra years in custody awaiting trial for being in possession of forged United States currency was freed by a High Court judge who accepted his guilty plea and sentenced him to time served.
Miguel Esis Arias appeared before Justice Devan Rampersad, who accepted the plea agreement between Arias and the State and ordered him to serve 40 months' simple imprisonment, as he had spent five years, four months and five days in custody.
Arias was before the judge charged with being in possession of forged currency notes on July 4, 2016.
He was arrested at the Scarborough port.
He was also charged with uttering a forged document, but pleaded guilty to that offence in 2016, and was sentenced. He also confessed to possession of forged currency, but was unable to enter a plea at the time for the indictable offence, which carried a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
In sentencing Arias, Rampersad began with a starting point of five years, and gave him a one-third discount for his guilty plea, leaving 40 months. Arias, having spent in excess of that time in jail, was ordered to be freed on “time served.” The judge also ordered the destruction of the forged currency notes.
Arias was represented by public defender Aleena Ramjag. Veona Neal-Munroe prosecuted.
According to the State’s case, WPC Tracey Coldiera, of the Crown Point CID, went to the Scarborough port, where she saw Arias.
After introducing herself, she told him of the report that he was in possession of forged US currency notes. She searched him, after he agreed to it, and she found 56 TT$100 bills and 47 US$50 notes. Coldiera told Arias she believed the US currency notes were forged.
When questioned, Arias said he spoke no English and was arrested and taken to the Scarborough police station. With the help of an interpreter, Arias admitted having bought US$500.
The 47 US currency notes were examined by a police officer trained to detect fraudulent documents, who said they were forged. The TT currency was also examined and found to be genuine.
Arias was then charged, and was committed to stand trial for possession of the forged currency by a Scarborough magistrate on September 11, 2018.