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Filipina in $14.6M jewelry theft did not use money to buy properties, says lawyer

02 September 2021

 By Vir B. Lumicao

 

This house which has been shared repeatedly on Facebook is not Carmelita's, says her lawyer

The Filipina domestic worker who admitted stealing jewelry and cash totaling $14.6 million from her wealthy Hong Kong employers from June 2018 to August 2019 has no money and property in the Philippines, her lawyer said in court today, Sept 2.

Carmelita Galay Nones, 45, appeared at the High Court before Judge Andrew Bruce, SC, for a mitigation hearing before her sentencing on Sept. 7.

Due to be sentenced with her are her niece, Maricis G. Nones, and cousin, Cristina N Alagna, who both admitted pawning some of the jewelry that Carmelita had stolen from her employers, New World executive David Liang and his wife, Helen Frances.

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According to Carmelita’s lawyer, Oliver Davies, none of the properties located in the Philippines and shown in about 2,000 photos obtained by the Filipina’s employer was registered in his client’s name.

“The truth is, they found nothing. There is no evidence to support the allegation that she used the money to buy properties,” said Davies.

But he mentioned that a property linked to Carmelita was a house in the middle of a farmland that belonged to her boyfriend, Eldon.

Carmelita celebrates happy occasion with boyfriend Eldon

In asking for a lower sentence for his client, Davies said all the money Carmelita made pawning the jewelry she stole was used to pay for her mother’s medical treatment.

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Her mother, who had undergone regular dialysis, reportedly passed away in December last year.

Davies also said that while Carmelita admitted six charges of stealing expensive jewelry, and gold bars from the Liangs’ Deepwater Bay home worth a total of $14,603,200, she made only roughly $1.1 million pawning the items.

Most of the stolen jewelry was recovered, either because Mrs Liang redeemed them from the pawnshops for a total of $1.451 million, or recovered from Carmelita’s other co-accused, her sister, Marina Biala, who pleaded not guilty to theft and will stand trial.

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Davies submitted that the Liang’s net loss from Carmelita’s theft was $1.9 million.

In reply, Judge Bruce pointed out to the “victim impact statement” which Mrs Liang made, in which she wrote about how she felt violated by the theft of her personal properties.

“I am more than prepared to accept that there was a violation of Mrs Liang’s privacy,” said the judge.

Lawyers for the two other defendants, Maricris Nones and Alagna, argued for a lower sentence for their clients than the maximum 14 years prescribed for the offense of handling stolen goods.


Duncan Percy, representing Maricris, said his client did not profit from pawning $2,110,000 worth of jewelry for Carmelita, from June 3 to Nov 25, 2018.

While the pawnshops paid a total of $220,250 to Maricris, she said she gave all the money to Carmelita, who needed money to pay for her mother’s medical needs.

Part of the stolen jewelry that Mrs Liang redeemed from a pawnshop

Percy reminded the judge that there is no legal basis in Hong Kong for taking emotional impact into account in sentencing.

The lawyer also insisted that while Maricris admitted the theft charges, she “believed” Carmelita when she said the jewelry were given to her by her very generous employer.

Each time his client asked Carmelita where she got the jewelry, she was told they were given by her employer, Percy said.

He also cited the help Maricris gave investigators.

The judge said he would enhance the 30% discount to the sentence but told Percy not to expect more than the limit.

Suzen Chong, who represented Alagna, said her client was the least culpable. The total value of the jewelry pieces that she pawned was $1,145,000, and she gave all the proceeds amounting to $204,960.50 to Carmelita.

On top of this, Chong said Alagna had actively helped the police during investigation by providing them pawnshop receipts and leading them to the pawnshops.

As a result of this, all the items Alagna pawned for Carmelita on six occasions from May 13, 2018 to June 2, 2019 were recovered, Chong said.

Bangles belonging to Mrs Liang were among those pawned

Calling Alagna “simple minded with an impeccable character,” the lawyer said Alagna knew Carmelita’s mother was sick, so she did not doubt her cousin’s claim that the expensive jewelry she asked her to pawn were gifts from her employer.

Chong also cited a testimony written by Alagna’s former employer, a senior police inspector, who hailed the helper’s honesty in the 12 years that she worked for his family.

All three pleaded guilty on Jun 7 at the District Court to various offences: Carmelita to six counts of theft and Maricris and Alagna to four and six counts, respectively, of handling stolen goods.

They were all remanded in custody pending their sentencing on Tuesday. 

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