‘Bogus’ oil and gas trainer pleads not guilty to 17 fraud charges
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The accused, Simone Fortune (second right) with some of the complainants during one of the training sessions
The accused, Simone Fortune (second right) with some of the complainants during one of the training sessions

BERBICE resident Simone Fortune, who allegedly collected more than $2.7M for a fake oil and gas training course, on Wednesday, appeared in the New Amsterdam Magistrate’s Court on 17 counts of fraud. Fortune of CaneField, East Canje, Berbice denied each of the intent to commit fraud charges which were read to her by Magistrate Renita Singh. She was subsequently released on a total of $680, 000 bail. The charges alleged that between December 2019 and March 2020, she obtained money from seventeen men as payment for a training course and the subsequent issuance of a seafarer’s certificate. According to reports, the woman collected over $2.7M in total from the complainants as payment for a one-week training course with the understanding that after six weeks, a certificate will be issued.

Several of the complainants outside the court

However, after the six-week period elapsed, the accused allegedly asked for an extension, claiming that the certificates are coming from Panama and that there were some delays. Believing the explanation, several of the complainants then paid and enrolled in a rigging course. After some time, the woman issued certificates which were different from the sample she had shown the men prior to them commencing the course. After protests, she took the certificates back and promised that she would issue ones similar to what the complainants were shown. In an application for bail, Attorney-at-Law, Ryan Crawford, stated that his client has been in the industry for over five years and is recognized by a certified institution.

Further, he noted that the issue at hand is not his client’s fault since she does not issue the certificates; they come from an accredited company in Panama. He submitted that his client has requested the certificates which may arrive before the matter goes to trial. Magistrate Singh asked that Fortune lodge her passport and report to the police every Friday. She granted the accused $40,000 bail on each charge, and adjourned the matter until January 26. Meanwhile, speaking to this publication at the court, the complaints said they contacted the company which issued the certificate and were told it is fake and invalid. “I enrol for the Standards of Training Certification and Watch Keeping (STCW) course in February last year, and then after the rigging course, I pay $260,000 and next couple weeks is one year since and up to now I can’t get me certificate.

The one she show we when we start with we pictures is the one I want, because that is the recognized seaman certificate, but the one she give we is not that,” Simon Sukra said. The man explained that it has been very difficult to get in contact with the woman. “Since then she not answering her phone and she even move from where she was and we realize like she moving funny and report it to the police. She promise to give we back we money if she can’t give we the right certificate, and we want it cause some of us unemployed and have families to feed,” he added. Sukra said too that his father assisted him in securing the finances to pay for the course, hoping that he would be able to gain a job within the oil and gas sector after completion.

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