Jamaica: Banker on fraud rap gets bail on humanitarian grounds

By Jamaica Observer

Accused Ronald McLaren was offered bail on Tuesday by Parish Judge Maxine Ellis after his attorney begged for bail on humanitarian grounds.

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – THE National Commercial Bank (NCB) employee accused of leaking customers’ banking information to scammers, and who was arrested in May with his wife after 50 rounds of ammunition were allegedly found at their house, was on Tuesday offered bail in the sum of $800,000.

The accused, Ronald McLaren, 40, of a Kingston 11 address, who was remanded last month after his bail was revoked, was offered bail in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court by Parish Judge Maxine Ellis after his attorney Bert Samuels begged for bail on humanitarian grounds.

Samuels told the court that McLaren’s brother-in-law was recently shot dead and asked that he be granted bail so that he may attend his wife’s brother’s funeral.

The lawyer told the court that the now deceased brother-in-law was the one who had retained him in McLaren’s matter.

The judge consequently acceded to Samuels’ request and McLaren was offered bail on condition that he reports daily at the Half-Way-Tree Police Station and surrender his travel documents. He is also to abide by a curfew order.

The accused and his wife, Chernet, a 47-year-old teacher, were arrested in May and charged with illegal possession of ammunition, after police raided their home and 50 9-mm rounds of ammunition were reportedly found in the husband’s chest of drawers among clothes in his bedroom.

The wife was initially granted bail when the matter first appeared in court on May 19, while the husband was refused bail, pending the fraud matter. On June 30, when he returned to court, he was initially offered $600,000 bail but it was quickly revoked after the judge heard that NCB had allegedly suffered a loss of almost $800,000 on account of McLaren’s alleged actions.

The court heard that the accused reportedly secured two credit cards for two NCB customers without their knowledge and carried out transactions on both cards, which together accumulated to $790,000 worth of credit..

The court heard then that the bank’s internal audit system showed that on numerous occasions user name jncb/mclarenr, which is assigned to Ronald McLaren, reviewed customers’ credit card information without justification, although the customers did not receive the credit cards that were posted out to them or had called in to the bank to make any enquiries. The customers’ credit cards were pinned and activated and transactions amounting to $600,000 and $190,000, respectively, were fraudulently done on their accounts.

On May 11, the bank called in the police who spoke to McLaren and during the interrogation, the police reportedly went through his Whatsapp messages on his phone and saw where he was asked by one of his contacts to verify the name on one of the credit cards and for him to get the name, address, contact number, credit limit, and availability of the credit card.

It was reported that McLaren, in return, sent those messages to an employee of another bank who confirmed the information that was sent by him. That employee is reportedly on the run.

Police, after questioning McLaren, got a search warrant and raided his home where they reportedly found the ammunition. McLaren was later charged in connection with the ammunition.

He is also facing three counts of conspiracy to defraud and identity information, seven counts of simple larceny and two counts of unauthorised access to data.

In the meantime, the prosecutor informed the court that the files were not completed and a mention date was set for September 13.

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