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Woman jailed for 20 years

By ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, December 21 2013

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MURDERED: American citizen Balram 'Balo' Maharaj, kidnapped and murdered in Trinidad in 2005....
MURDERED: American citizen Balram 'Balo' Maharaj, kidnapped and murdered in Trinidad in 2005....

DOREEN ALEXANDER, 47, the mastermind behind the 2005 kidnapping of US citizen Balram “Balo” Maharaj who was subsequently murder, was yesterday sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

However, because Alexander has already spent several years behind bars and has qualified for a discount due to “good behaviour,” she is likely to serve nine years in jail, the bulk of which will also be spent back in a Trinidad prison, her lawyer said yesterday.

According to court documents, Alexander initiated the April 2005 kidnapping of Maharaj and provided information which allowed the kidnappers to identify, locate and track Maharaj. She alerted the kidnappers to Maharaj’s visits to Trinidad and Tobago, gave them information on his wealth which was used to calculate a ransom figure and reassured kidnappers that they had the right man after the ransom negotiations went awry.

Maharaj, 62, of Mount Vernon in New York, was vacationing in Trinidad when he was kidnapped while liming at a bar in El Socorro on April 6, 2005. A $3.2 million ransom was demanded for his safe release. Police found his dismembered body in a forest at Santa Cruz almost nine months later.

US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, sitting in the District of Columbia, also sentenced Alexander to serve five years supervised release to follow her prison term. Alexander pleaded guilty on October 3, to conspiracy to commit hostage taking.

Alexander was the last charged co-conspirator involved in the kidnapping of Maharaj, who was her former boyfriend and the father of one of her sons. The other 12 co-conspirators were previously extradited and prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Alexander was extradited eight months ago and first appeared in US court on April 2, being arraigned by Judge Deborah A Robinson. Alexander’s attorney David West yesterday said though she was sentenced to 20 years, his client is likely to serve only nine.

“She will get eight years off for serving time in Trinidad and three years off for good behaviour so she will only serve nine years,” West told Newsday. He disclosed that US state officials have indicated they will not oppose an application by Alexander to be transferred from US prison to a Trinidad prison.

That application, West said, is to be made under the Transfer of Prisoners Act which gives the US the power to issue a warrant authorising a transfer. “The US government is not going to oppose her transfer and she will exercise her option in this regard,” West said.

West, former head of the local extradition agency, the Central Authority, said he did not attend court proceedings in the US, but provided some “assistance” to US prosecutors. “I assisted the prosecutor in clarifying our law,” he said. “When they were discussing the plea agreement Doreen was concerned that if she came to Trinidad and Tobago she could be charged for the murder, but that matter was discontinued TT.”

West said Alexander is likely to be housed at the Women’s Prison, Golden Grove Road, Arouca. He said that overall, she will serve nine full calender years and not nine “prison years”, applying US sentencing standards.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division Extraterritorial Squad with the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI’s Legal Attache’s Office in Port-of-Spain.�Special assistance was further provided by the TT Police, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and Homicide Investigations Bureau.

Announcement of the sentence was made by way of a press release issued by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge, Michael B Steinbach, of the FBI’s Miami Field Office.

The US officials said the case was prosecuted by Senior Trial attorneys Matthew C Singer and Teresa A Wallbaum of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

Mary Petras was the public defender in the case.

On March 28, Alexander’s lawyer had challenged the extradition by filing a notice for judicial review. However, she was extradited on March 31. Alexander’s sentencing comes four years after a US court found seven Trinidadian men guilty of the murder in 2009. In that year, four others also pleaded guilty to the same offence.

Seven Trinidadians were sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for hostage taking resulting in Maharaj’s death. The seven are: Zion Clarke; former Defence Force Special Forces soldier Ricardo De Four; Kevon Demerieux; Kevin Nixon; Wayne Pierre; Christopher Sealey; and Anderson Straker.

Prior to the 2009 trial, four others pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death and hostage-taking resulting in death.

The four were: Jason Percival (who was discharged from the TT Defence Force); Russell Jerry Joseph; Winston Gittens and former Special Forces soldier Leon Nurse.

After a long and seemingly never-ending preliminary inquiry in the local courts, the men were committed to extradition by Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar on April 17, 2012. They fought extradition up to the Court of Appeal but lost. They were extradited to the US.

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