WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a former cashier at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti who told local banks holding U.S. funds that he needed cash advances to pay embassy vendors during times of unrest, thus embezzling $850,000. The disbursement of funds from Washington into the Haitian bank accounts functioned with so little oversight that Jean Saint-Joy was able to pursue his simple scheme for five years before he was found out.
Jean G. Saint-Joy, 44, also known as Gary Saint-Joy, a Haitian citizen, pleaded guilty to the theft in February. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina sentenced him to 18 months in prison and restitution.
Saint-Joy admitted that from 2003 until 2008, while working at the embassy, he submitted documents to Citibank and Haitian-based Sogebank, falsely claiming he needed cash advances to pay the embassy’s vendors for legitimate expenses.
Saint-Joy said the embassy needed cash because during political unrest vendors accepted only cash payments. The banks advanced the money without requiring a written agreement from the embassy.
Citibank and Sogebank deposited U.S. dollars and Haitian Gourdes into Saint-Joy’s cash advance account but Saint-Joy never recorded the transactions in the embassy’s accounting system.
Saint-Joy submitted more than 100 fraudulent replenishment requests to the Global Finance Services division of the State Department for the Citibank and Sogebank accounts.
Saint-Joy admitted using fake State Department vouchers and forms printed out from the embassy’s computerized accounting systems to give to Sogebank in exchange for payment.
In June 2008, the embassy requested auditing assistance from Global Finance after it was informed that it owed Sogebank more than $500,000 in unreimbursed advances.
According to the complaint, Didier Catalan, executive director at Sogebank, told State Department investigators that Sogebank employees considered Saint-Joy to be the “face” of the embassy and that his signature alone was enough to grant an advance.