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Aug 8, 2012

Coye Family sentenced to 3 years for money laundering

Sentencing in a major money laundering case involving Money Exchange International Ltd. was handed down today and it is bad news for sixty-five year old Michael Coye; his daughter, Melonie and their two employees, Athlee Matute and Deitrick Kingston. The Coyes and their employees were found guilty last Friday by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and tonight they are in the Central Prison beginning three-year prison terms. A hefty fine of a hundred thousand dollars was also imposed on the corporate entity for facilitating the laundering of one point five million dollars in cash found at the house of Michael Coye.  Melonie and Michael Coye were each fined fifty and twenty-five thousand dollars respectively, to be paid upon their release from prison. Matute and Kingston were also given minimum fines of twenty-five thousand dollars each for lesser roles they played in executing the fraudulent scheme.  In their first trial which concluded in October 2010, they were cleared of the charge; however, the Financial Intelligence Unit appealed the ruling and they were brought back to court in July.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The dramatic conclusion to a protracted legal saga involving the Coyes, Michael and his daughter Melanie, their employees Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston, was a bittersweet ending complete with tears of joy and anguish.  While all four persons were found guilty of money laundering last Friday, only the principals of Money Exchange International Ltd., the vehicle through which an estimated one point five million dollars was siphoned, will be serving prison sentences. Kingston and Matute, on the other hand, were each fined twenty-five thousand dollars to be paid in installments.


Athlee Matute

Athlee Matute, Guilty of Money Laundering

“Even though the time wasn’t such a long time I really would have hoped for the better and wished that all four of us could have gotten the same sentence, I mean, because we still all maintain our innocence in this entire ordeal.”


Melonie Coye, who was deemed the mastermind behind what has been described as a massive scheme involving the forgery of dozens of receipts to accrue their ill-gotten proceeds, received the harshest penalty.  Along with her father, she will be spending the next three years at the Belize Central Prison.  On her release she will also have to pay a fine of fifty thousand dollars.


Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for the Coyes

Arthur Saldivar

“This was a shoddy investigation if any investigation was done at all.  If this is what we consider the requirements for justice to be served then justice was buried today and was buried on Friday because at the end of the day you had clear evidence of monies coming out of banks, not one bank, not two banks and not just a couple years ago but as far back as the year 2000.”


Attorney Arthur Saldivar argues that no investigator bothered to interview bank officials to determine whether or not the monies were indeed deposited by the Coyes during the time their MoneyGram subagent was operational.  This, he added, was part of the irregularities leading up to the trial.


melonie Coye

Arthur Saldivar

“You have seen it, the clear cut indication of irregularity.  When a person makes a statement from the dock he is not assuming responsibility to prove a case, so how is it that what he says is of any import?  It’s not what he said that is important; it is what the prosecution did not prove.  Come on!  I mean here it is we have these two individuals who they say were involved in this huge, international money laundering scheme, Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston, not one bank account between any of them, not even a dollar.”


Conversely, the prosecution, led by Senior Counsel Antoinette Moore, was not convinced.


Antoinette Moore

Antoinette Moore, Attorney for Financial Investigation Unit

“Clearly we do not believe the case was fraught with irregularities and obviously neither did the jury.  We are very pleased that the jury saw the evidence and resulted in guilty verdicts for all five of the accused, which of course includes the corporate accused and the four natural persons.  The sentencing today, as with all sentencings, in my view, is a difficult matter.  The judge has to try to weigh both the mitigation as well as the aggravation of the matter and I think that, at least in my view, that the learned Chief Justice, in his wisdom, came down right where he should have been in terms of fining and confining in the case of the two Coyes, Melonie Coye and Michael Coye and sentencing the two other persons Dietrick Kingston and Athlee Matute to fines only.”


Those fines, twenty-five thousand dollars each, are to be paid in installments with an initial deposit of ten thousand dollars by November first; the balance in sums of five hundred dollars monthly.  Outside of the Supreme Court the families of Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston were tearful, happy that they were not given prison time.  Marlene Coye, wife and mother of Michael and Melonie respectively, was beside herself; distraught that they will be serving prison sentences.  Their attorney firmly believes that they were railroaded.


Arthur Saldivar

“Melonie Coye did not create Omni Networks Limtied which is the master agent for whom all transactions must be reported. Omni Networks Limited; now who is being protected? You have Mike Singh, who is a part of Omni Networks Limited, as a shareholder; Ruth Esquivel, who is a part of Omni Networks Limited as a shareholder. Let’s paint the picture here. My clients were scape-goated; plain and simple.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


The Coye’s will challenge the conviction in the October 2013 session of the Court of Appeal. 

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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8 Responses for “Coye Family sentenced to 3 years for money laundering”

  1. Storm says:

    Congratulations to prosecutor Moore for winning something of a precedent-setting case for Belize, a successful trial for money laundering. It was a tough case and a good victory.

    Between this verdict and sentence, and the sanctions placed this week on the Sinaloa-Zabaneh operation, MAYBE some law will forced upon money-laundering in the Jewel.

    I’m sure some will defend crooks in that business, since they are rich and drive nice SUVs and can party at the best clubs, and because they are Belizeans, but that misses the point. The point is that drug trafficking is a soulless business, of selling poison to make a dollar, and not caring who dies from it. And drug traffickers MUST HAVE money launderers to make their business worthwhile, so they can reap and hide their blood money.

    Drugs and everything that come with them have done a serious job of destroying Belizean society in just a generation. If the nation wants a future, we need more successes like this one.

  2. Rod says:

    They should get at least 10 years this a slap on the wrist.

  3. Gadfly says:

    This entire thing stinks, what happened to the Master Agent, Omni? I went to listen to that case a few times out of curiosity, the lead investigator admitted that the Master agent was charged with the same offence and that he produced the drivers license CD!. Then a lady from supposedly from Costa Rica , brought 2 documents, 1 showing money owed by Omni Service-$5,000,000US. Where was the Central Bank when all this money was coming in? How did the investigators miss that? The Coye family is paying for the sins of big people . Who next?

  4. Uncle Benji says:

    Well done! The Coyes got off easy. Very easy. With so much money floating around, it means they had pathetic lawyers.

    I have said it before, I will say it again – Musa – Bradley – Smith (in that order) are Belize’s top barristers. If you do not have one of them representing you…….. you will do time.

    Once again, congrats to the DPP offices. Another batch of rats bites the dust.

    Michael, we were buddies, and when you get out of jail, we will still be buddies. You did the crime, you must……………………… (you know the rest.)

  5. Simone says:

    A dutch cheese thief gets more time. They used my name so good for them, at least the thief uses his own bravery and acts rather than the good name of others. At least they should have used the money to get better lawyers-this was not a traffic offense or the bliss where idiots perform. Then we get bombarded with stupidity after the trial with more nonesense from their attorney who failed. This is big boy business-get a big boy lawyer-give the little murder to him when the murderer simply wins the case for himself by threatening the witness and the lawyer thinks he did a great job.

  6. cayobway says:


  7. DC says:

    SAD Ending, Besides having to spent time in prison and upon release pay huge fines, but the government took their millions also. Now that some gangster stuff.

  8. BMNJ says:

    Hope the $1.5 million are not linked to any drug cartels.

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