Venezuelan who escaped Covid-19 isolation in Dominica, imprisoned for failure to pay court fine

A 32-year-old Venezuelan man who pleaded guilty to illegal entry and escaping isolation whilst infected with Covid-19 is now an inmate at the Dominica State Prison for the next 12 months following his failure to pay a fine imposed by the court.

Brauny Ramon Rojas who was charged for the two aforementioned offenses, first appeared before Magistrate Michael Laudat on July 13, 2021 and after several adjournments whilst the defendant sought counsel, he was sentenced on July 19.

According to the facts of the case, on June 23, 2021, at about 4:30 p.m, Constable Delroy Jno Charles along with other police officers and customs officers were on a border patrol in Calibishie when the said officer received certain information. They immediately proceeded to OM’s Ocean View Guesthouse.

On arrival at the guesthouse, Constable Jno Charles met with the owner and had a conversation with her. She directed the Officers to the room which was occupied by the a spanish speaker. Constable Jno Charles knocked on the door, identified himself as a police officer and entered. He then saw Rojas and informed him that he had reason to believe that he [Rojas] entered Dominica illegally and he would like to see his passport.

The officer realized that Rojas was having difficulty understanding him hence he looked through a passport he noticed in the room.

Upon inspection, he realised that the passport belonged to the defendant but there was no stamp indicating that Rojas had entered Dominica at a legal port of entry.

Rojas was transported to the Government Quarantine Facility at Portsmouth.

On June 24, with the assistance of a spanish interpreter, Constable Jno Charles informed the defendant that he was arresting him on suspicion for illegal entry and cautioned him. Rojas replied, “I came looking for help and in search of work”.

Days later –June 30– staff members of the Government Quarantine facility at Picard Portsmouth, informed the Constable that Rojas tested positive for Covid-19 and he was transported to the St. James Covid-19 isolation centre at Portsmouth.

On July 1, police officers were alerted that Rojas had escaped from isolation. A search was conducted of the facility and surrounding area but the defendant was not found.

The following day, acting on certain information, Officers went on duty at Savanne Paille where Rojas was found in a wooden shed. He was transported back to the St. James facility.

On July 10, the defendant was discharged from the Covid-19 centre and was transported to the Roseau Police Station where an interview was later conducted with him and on July 12, the charges were preferred against him.

At Rojas’s first court appearance on July 13,  he apologised to Magistrate Laudat for his actions but pleaded with the court to not impose a jail sentence. He said he suffers from a disability and he has four children to take care of.

Rojas said that though he was in search of a better life,  had someone informed him that Dominica was so “poor” and illegal entry was not permitted, he would have never come.

Unimpressed, Magistrate Laudat informed the defendant that he would divert from the sentencing guidelines set out by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court as his actions placed the lives of others at risk. The sentencing was adjourned to July 15 but on that date, Rojas requested an attorney. The court granted his request and the matter was further adjourned.

On July 19, Attorney-at-Law Wayne Norde, appeared on behalf of Rojas and pleaded with the court to “temper justice with mercy.”

He informed the court that the father of four had fallen on difficult times in Venezuela and saw his family going without food for days.

“He constantly remembered his 2-year-old daughter crying from hunger and his only solution to help his family was to leave Venezuela and come to Dominica for work,” Norde argued.

Asking for a non-custodial sentence, Norde said Rojas was very remorseful for his actions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, not wasting the court’s time.

“We understand aggravating factors are great, especially the fact that he escaped isolation whilst having Covid, but we ask the court to consider the mitigating factors and come to a just and fair sentence for the defendant. He is now at your mercy Your Honour and begs for your leniency.”

In handing down his sentence, Magistrate Laudat reprimanded the Venezuelan for his actions.

“What you did was wrong and so grave that you placed the lives of Dominicans in danger. People could have died from your actions. I’m diverting from the sentencing guidelines for one reason only, your action went against the public interest and placed them in jeopardy,” the magistrate stated.

Magistrate Laudat said he understands the human aspect in that Venezuela is going through difficult times,  but pointed out that as one who must dispense justice, he must weigh which situation is greater.

Both offenses carry a maximum penalty of $10,000.00 or one year in prison.

Magistrate Laudat imposed a fine of $3,500 for both charges to be paid forthwith. In default, he said Rojas would be imprisoned for 6 six months for each offense to run consecutively.

Rojas was unable to pay the fine hence, he has been imprisoned for the next 12 months.

The prosecution also made an application to have Rojas removed from Dominica after serving his sentence. However, Magistrate Laudat said that based on a recent order by the ECSC, this is not a function of the Magistrate but Immigration authorities.

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  1. Sakway Menteur
    July 23, 2021

    We poor but we not stupid. You travel from Venezuela to Dominica by what means? The money you use to travel could have fed your family. There are countries in closer proximity to Venezuela. Nothing about your story makes sense. Even worse, your behind have covid and you escaping from quarantine? How you know where to run and hide? How long have you been in Dominica? Whose passport you stole? Usually children are given a five year passport and adults ten. Garcon, don’t drop your soap!

  2. Malick
    July 21, 2021

    I would ask the authorities to recheck this passport again a bit closer. I suspect it may not be legit.

    Male Venezuelans are label as Venezuelano . The females are Venezuelana.

    Why is the Nationality saying he is female / woman. This is not a mistake that would be overlooked by the Venezuelan Authorities. However, if this was a fake passport then this explains why.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
    • Malatete
      July 21, 2021

      This refers to “Nacionalidad”, which is a female noun and therefore his nationality is given Correctly as “Venezuelans”. It would be the same for a female citizen of that country. Of more concern is the validity date of the man’s passport. It expired on 16 Dec. 2018, over two years ago.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
    • Man bites dogs
      July 21, 2021

      @Malick, Good observation on your part, that man ID is a fake my concern is how comes the police and others didn’t pick that up or maybe they didn’t understand the Spanish language? Once again well done!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12
  3. Truth Be Told
    July 21, 2021

    Don’t worry our PM will sort this out and have him back to Venezuela on the Petrocaribe boat in no time! You all ever wonder why is those constituencies in the North; Calibishie, Tatan, Ville Casse, Portsmouth with the most illegal entry and people smuggling into Dominica? Who is the real head of operations? Who is running tings in Dominica?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3
  4. Braindamage
    July 20, 2021

    The guy stressed the point that if he had known Dominica is so poor, he would not have come here.

    Hoping Skerrit got the message.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2
  5. Humble Farmer
    July 20, 2021

    This story reveals much about our country: (1) The Economy – this man leaves his wife and 4 children in Venezuela in a desperate attempt to flee a bankrupt State with an autocratic, corrupt government in search of work in Dominica. He soon realizes that Dominica is just as “poor” and corrupt as Venezuela. (2) The Pandemic – This man tests positive for Covid yet has no symptoms, receives no medical treatment, and after his release from quarantine he is sentenced to 1 year in Stock Farm because he “put lives at risk”. Did he really? (3) Immigration – The border is porous for those who can pay a fee. He was caught because he could not blend in. He is in prison because he is poor – not for his criminal conduct. My prayers go out to this man’s family. Praise Jah.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4
  6. Looking on
    July 20, 2021

    Does this not mean 6 months?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3
  7. freeworld
    July 20, 2021

    The man is Venezuelan not spanish. Spanish-speaking maybe but “Spanish” people are from spain. I know dominicans in general don’t know better but you would think journalists would know to use the term latin american or the actual nationality.

    ADMIN: Thank you for pointing that out.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 3
  8. Sherm
    July 20, 2021

    Why Dominica… there were many other islands that are closer proximality to Venezuela. The question is was he looking for work or running drugs?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1
    • Martha
      July 21, 2021

      This is a pretty straight forward answer. Do you see these guys usually working? I rest my case.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
    July 20, 2021

    If he haven’t got money to pay he will be paying by going to jail.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14
    • Toto
      July 21, 2021

      ….. boy, grow up. What I want t know is how he come to Dominica if he has no money and people smugglers only want real cash. He did not swim from Bird island did he. His English is poor but he came to an English speaking island. Something fishy about this.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
  10. If we knew better
    July 20, 2021

    if he dont have money how he paying?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4
    • Man bites dogs
      July 20, 2021

      If we knew better, “Kid on the block ” told you the answer why ask the same question again!!!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 19

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