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Dec 27, 2001

Bz. businessman loses $1.2 mil in scam

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Over the course of this year, we’ve reported our fair share of robberies, but this next story still manages to stand out. One local businessman has been robbed of over one million Belize dollars…at pen point. Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

Today, Belize businessman Cornelius Dueck, owner of General Automotive Limited on Central American Blvd., has four days to pay back over one million dollars to his bank in the United States.

Cornelius Dueck, Owner, General Automotive

“In fact it’s one point two million.”

For the past month, Dueck has been buying bank drafts, of substantial amounts, from Dennis Eiley, Eiley’s girlfriend Eileen Flowers and their friend Sandra Williams, all of Orange Walk. Dueck says he did approach third party cheques with some level of caution by depositing them in his U.S. bank account.

Cornelius Dueck

“After three, four days, we called the bank to see if they came through, to see if they were valid. And they said yes, they went through, they came back all right. So after that, we paid for these cheques, some with Belize cheques, some mostly with cash.

After the bank gave the go-ahead, Dueck bought a total of five cheques at two dollars twelve cents per U.S. dollar.

Cornelius Dueck

“And we bought cheques four times, but the fourth amount we haven’t paid for them yet because then all at once, the banks threw these cheques back at us.”

That’s right on December nineteenth 2001, Lott State Bank in Texas notified Dueck that all the cheques were not valid. According to Dueck, the U.S. bank allowed the transaction to continue based on trust for his company.

Cornelius Dueck

“I owe a lot of U.S. to my banks in the states and they are demanding the money by the end of December. And it’s impossible for me to pay. I just sold one of my lots in the Free Zone to pay part of it, and I’ll reduce my stock and sell off some assets, some real estate.”

Janelle Chanona

“Why did you trust these people?”

Cornelius Dueck

“Dennis Eiley has been a customer with us for about ten years. He always performed great. In our business, we need about one hundred and sixty thousand U.S. per month to operate and the bank, for the last three months, we did not have ten thousand a month. It was nine thousand and change each month and we’ve had to go to the black market or closedown our business, and so are many other businesses in Spanish Lookout. That was the purpose of buying these cheques.

I asked the lawyer, it’s not illegal to buy U.S. cheques. It’s illegal to trade them or to sell. But to buy, that’s not illegal…so I don’t think I did anything illegal in this situation.”

But officials at the Central Bank tell News 5 that under the recently amended central bank act, what Dueck and currency changers have done is illegal.

According to Dueck, several other businesses both in Spanish Lookout and Shipyard have also fallen prey to this financial scam and may be out several hundred thousand U.S. dollars as well.

Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

Dennis Eiley, formerly of San Pedro, now residing in Orange Walk, Sandra Williams and Eileen Flowers, both of Orange Walk, were arrested and charged with obtaining property by deception. They were released on bail today. Additional charges are expected to be filed later.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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