Published On: Thu, Oct 19th, 2017

Man gets four months for fencing stolen car

GREAT BAY – The first session of the Court in First Instance in the courthouse after Hurricane Irma was a special one. The focus of the trials on Wednesday was on looters and it was the first time that the court allowed camera teams to film in the courtroom. In the morning and early afternoon journalist Gertjan Zwanikken had his equipment rolling for a report that will later be broadcast by Zembla in the Netherlands and later in the afternoon a French TV-team showed up as well.

Francisco Cabrero Ozorio was on the receiving end of the most serious punishment yesterday: a prison sentence of 4 months. While the court ruled that there is no evidence that the defendant had been looting, the judge found sufficient proof for fencing a car that had been reported stolen on the French side shortly after Hurricane Irma.

The public prosecutor said that there was insufficient evidence that Ozorio had stolen the car.

The defendant said that he bought the car for $5,800 – way below its market value – and that he had never stolen anything in his life.

Ozorio came in the crosshairs of the justice system after an anonymous tip. Detectives found an air-conditioning unit, an outboard engine, jewelry with price tags still attached, a smart-TV and whiskey in his home and in the car.

The prosecutor considered proven that Ozorio had stolen the air-conditioning unit and the outboard engine on the Dutch side but that there is insufficient evidence that he fenced the other items. “There are suspicions. A couple of months before his arrest, all he possessed was a table, a chair and a bed.”

Ozorio claimed that he had bought the car from a man named Michael, but he was unable to further identify the seller. “And that during a time of massive looting on the island,” the prosecutor said.

The defendant could not show a purchase agreement or the original car papers. An insurance sticker on the window held a plate number that differed from the plate number on the vehicle.

“Irma has cause a lot of misery and destruction,” the prosecutor said. “It is worrisome that at an epic low point a group of people went out to abuse a vulnerable community for personal gain. And in that situation this defendant went to buy a car of which he should have known that it had been stolen.”

This is not about a few bottles of water but about an essential item. That this defendant has not expressed regrets is not exactly promising. “The prosecutor demanded a 4-month prison sentence.

Attorney Geert Hatzmann said that looting would probably become the word of the year in St. Maarten but that he had not heard it yet during the trial. “Today would be a looting-session, but the first three cases have already been withdrawn.”

Hatzmann said that the case at hand was about “simple fencing” and that the demand was too high. He referred to the bad condition in the police cells, said that he had read dozens of dossiers about looting and that he did not see a lot of cars mentioned in these files. He asked the court to sentence his client to a punishment that equals his pretrial detention.

But the judge went along with the public prosecutor, saying that there is sufficient evidence that the car was stolen. “You did not get the original papers, you immediately changed the number plates and you do not know the full name of the seller. You are 24, and you drive a car for your work. Fencing is proven and it counts heavier in the context of Hurricane Irma. I had a higher punishment in mind, but I won’t go higher than the prosecutor’s demand.”