Four sales girls including a nursing mother working with Tatters Boutique, located at Osu, have been sentenced to a total of 17 years imprisonment in hard labour by an Accra Circuit court for stealing items worth over GH¢275, 000 (¢2.75billion) from the shop.
The convicts, Agnes Cobbah, Evelyn Asiedu, Rosemary Addy and Betty Darko, who were abandoned by their lawyer at the last minute of their trial, were found guilty on two charges of conspiracy to commit crime and stealing.
Agnes Cobbah, the ringleader, would serve five years while the others would serve four years each.
Betty, the nursing mother, had her sentence suspended for six months to enable her to breastfeed her four-week-old baby until the baby was weaned.
She was therefore granted a GH¢50,000 bail with two sureties, and one to be justified.
The decision, according to trial judge D.E.K. Daketsey, was to protect the baby as enshrined in the constitution and not the mother.
In his judgment, Mr. Daketsey observed that the young ladies were guilty of the crime beyond reasonable doubt as there was enough evidence including pictures of them in possession of the stolen items.
The prosecutor led evidence to show also that they acted together and appropriated the items without the consent of the complainant.
Mr. Daketsey said it was shocking that the convicts, who showed no remorse for their action, even wore some of the stolen items to court.
The judge, who noted that it was bad for such young ladies between the ages of 25 and 27 to involve themselves in such a crime, asked them to “bow their heads down in shame because they have disgraced their family, loved ones and even their boyfriends.”
The judge, before he delivered his judgment, took into consideration a plea of mitigation by Alex Abban, a friend of the court, in granting them a lenient sentence.
The facts, as presented by a State Attorney, Rexford Wiredu, indicated that Christine Hobeika, the manageress of the Tatters Boutique who is the complainant, on October 27, 2009, detected that 24 out of 70 men’s T-shirts in her shop were missing. Even though the convicts agreed that they were present in the shop all along, they were unable to account for the lost items.
The complainant then reported the matter to the police and the four were arrested.
As part of investigations, the police escorted the ladies to their homes where a search in their rooms led to the discovery of several items such as ladies’ shirts, shoes, bags, wrist-watches, night wears, men’s shoes and men’s shirts worth GH¢191,000.
They were then paraded before the Director General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where they confessed to the crime and as a result were charged with the offence.
However, in court, when they opened their defence, the convicts denied the offence and insisted that the items were gifts from their customers, male friends and the complainant whenever she returned from abroad. They also asserted that they bought most of the items during the shop’s reduction sales.
According to the judge, Rosemary had indicated that the men’s shoes found in her room were sent by her father from the United States to be given to her brother.
Evelyn also said hers were gifts and that because the complainant knew of them she never confronted her when she wore some of the clothes to work.
According to the judge, the convicts rejected the content of an audit report tendered, saying it was not carried out in their presence and that they were forced to append their signatures. However, evidence adduced in court showed that they lied.
The tendered audit report also showed that items stolen by Agnes were valued at GH¢29,100, Evelyn- GH¢43,017, Rosemary- GH¢79,582.50 and Betty- GH¢39,250.50.
Mr. Daketsey rejected their defense as a mere fabrication, after rhetorically asking whether the complainant ran the shop as a charity organisation to give such colossal amounts of items to them as gifts.
“How much is their salary to buy such items when most of the prices are in Euros. If indeed they bought the goods at reduction sales, where are the receipts covering the purchase? They showed no receipt to the court or brought any of their so-called admirers to testify that they gave them the items,” the judge observed.
The judge disclosed that Betty and Evelyn, in their caution statements, said it was Agnes, the oldest among them, who initiated them into the act.
According to them, they sometimes stole the items together and shared them among themselves or stole them individually.
Betty reportedly said she did not sell any but gave some to friends and loved ones. Evelyn corroborated this and stated that they stole the items whenever the manager, one Alhaji, was not present.
It was established that Agnes, who the complainant trusted most and was trained to operate the CCTV cameras, always disconnected them in order not to capture their activities whenever they were on a stealing spree.
Source: D Guide