Friday, September 29, 2023
By PAVEL BAILEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FORMER attorney was allowed one last weekend with his family before he will be taken into custody on Monday to serve an 18-month prison term after he accepted a plea deal for stealing $1.7 million from his clients.
The same attorney faces a potential four-year extension to his prison term if he fails to repay his debts by the end of his initial prison sentence.
Ralph Jan Ward pleaded guilty to eight counts of stealing by reason of service and eight counts of fraudulent breach of trust before Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson.
Ward is accused of misappropriating over $1.7 million from eight clients, which were given to him to complete property sales between 2006 and 2007.
Ward was disbarred in 2009.
While Ward initially pleaded guilty to charges in 2011, he later withdrew those pleas and initiated a series of legal challenges to stop the trial.
Ward failed to cancel the trial with arguments over the validity of the indictments and a constitutional motion based on him not being tried in a reasonable time.
The Privy Council also refused Ward’s leave to appeal in December of 2021.
After accepting a plea deal last August, Ward was expected to pay $1,826,908.75 worth in restitution, inclusive of a 2.5% interest, to his clients within nine months.
However, Justice Grant Thompson stated that Ward had made no payments since the deadline passed or after an extension was given.
The former attorney claimed that he had issues making payments through the bank.
Ward’s attorney, Damien Gomez, KC, objected to a move to have a four-year prison term attached immediately as a penalty for failing to reimburse the victims. He asked that his client only serve the 18 months to which he had agreed as part of his plea agreement.
When the possibility of Ward being taken into custody that day arose, he begged the court to allow him to settle his family affairs over the weekend, mentioning his eight-year-old daughter and elderly mother.
The former attorney also noted that he had obeyed all his sign-in conditions and met all his court dates while on bail for $100,000. He also offered to provide legal aid to prisoners and help with administrative work while at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS).
Ward acceded to the court’s condition that he only be granted weekend bail after being fitted with a monitoring device at Central Station, despite earlier protests.
Additionally the court also noted that he is to be housed in minimum security once he begins his prison term at BDCS on Monday as he requested.
Eucal Bonaby and Janet Munnings prosecuted.