The woman who admitted to stealing from Olympian sprint legend Usain Bolt’s retirement account will remain behind bars after being denied bail for a second time. Still, many Jamaicans question if she acted alone in pulling off the nation’s largest financial scam.
Although it is unclear how much money Jean-Ann Panton stole from nearly 40 investment accounts at the Jamaican financial firm Stocks and Securities Limites, she twice admitted to swiping money from customers to cover medical bills for ailing family members.
The wheelchair-bound ex-employee sought Friday, Feb. 24, to await her fate outside the bounds of jail because of severe diabetes and immobility.
As the news broke that Panton, who was arrested on June 17, would remain behind bars for at least two months, many on social media called on the former client relationship manager to name her accomplices. Panton was seen on video being pushed out of the Supreme Court by an officer while holding a walker in her lap on Friday following her second bond hearing.
“I personally think she was the fall person because there is absolutely no way she could scam so many people without others higher up not notice or being part of the scam,” Anthony Welch wrote.
“I find it so amazing that this woman did all of this on her own. She was smarter than every manager, every Board Director, everybody? Yeah, right!” wrote Ingrid Green.
About J$3 billion or $19.4 million is said to be missing from the 39 SSL accounts. Bolt’s lawyers said he was ripped off more than $12 million from his investment account listed under his business name. Recent reports point to a $6.1 million investment listed under Bolt’s holding company, WellJen Limited.
Panton told SSL she modified and fabricated requests to move the money.
According to company representatives, Panton was first investigated by the firm in September after sending a client a “false” statement. However, a disciplinary board determined there was no evidence of fraud, and SSL fired Panton for negligence and gross incompetence. The company said her hearings were stalled for a number of reasons, mostly because of her medical issues.
The fraud was uncovered in December when a customer realized his statement did not match the online activity on his account. Panton admitted to stealing from clients’ accounts in a sworn affidavit on Jan. 7 confessing to using the money to pay for her cancer-stricken father’s medical bills and funeral, among other things.
Panton did not confess then to taking money from Bolt’s account, but prosecutors said she told investigators that she has been stealing from the account for the sprinter’s company from as far back as 2012, The Gleaner reports. She reportedly confessed to the SSL director in January to clear her conscience.
Panton is now charged in relation to $10 million in fraud, according to Jamaica Observer, as other reports show more customers have made allegations against her.
Selvin Hay, the chief technical director of Jamaica’s Financial Investigations Division, said the investigation is still ongoing.
“Various lines of inquiry are being pursued with a view to identifying all connected parties and bringing them to justice. As the investigation continues we will seek to lay additional charges, not only against Panton but against other perpetrators,” Hay said in a statement.
“We’ve had to be deliberate and meticulous in the process of verifying and authenticating the information and intelligence received so far. When the matter is presented in the courts, our submissions must demonstrate clear, irrefutable evidence against all who stand accused,” Hay added.
Panton and her attorneys argued on Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 that she should not be held in jail because of her dependency on insulin and a wheelchair. Her attorney, Tamika Harris, argued that she had “a series of 25 surgeries” since she was 2.
Harris gave the court an affidavit with newspaper clippings detailing Panton’s illness on Friday. She also presented two additional medical reports, including one from Panton’s orthopedic surgeon. However, Presiding judge Justice Lorna Shelly Williams denied the second request for bail.
Panton was ordered to return to court on April 19 for the case to be mentioned and on June 15 for a plea hearing.
“One thing I’ll say. Moving that kind of $$$$ takes more than one signature. She’s in company bigger than herself. They need to be called out sooner than later, “Bernadette Stewart wrote.
“I hope in time this lady releases the names of those involved, there is no way she could have accomplished this by herself. She is the Fall Guy. Lady, come to your senses and let all you are protecting fall with you,” Pamesha Princess Douglas wrote.
SSL said the case against Panton has had “adverse consequences” for clients and current staff. The Jamaica Stock Exchange also terminated the company’s dealer agreement on Friday, according to The Gleaner.