By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AN Ecuadorian national who was discovered illegally selling souvenir items brought from his home country at the Port Lucaya Marketplace in Grand Bahama was arraigned in the court this week.
Jose Luis Lema Santillan, 30, appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Debbye Ferguson in Freeport. He was charged with working illegally.
Santillan, who claimed to be a travelling salesman from Ecuador, pleaded guilty to the charge.
On Monday, June 24, immigration officers, acting on information received, went to the Port Lucaya Marketplace where they observed Santillan with souvenir items in a clear plastic bag.
Officers McIntosh and Pierce approached him and asked him to produce proof of his legal status. The accused showed them an Ecuadorian passport, which indicated he’d landed in the Bahamas on June 10 as a visitor, and was granted a stay of three weeks.
The officers cautioned Santillan, and asked him what he was doing with the items. He told them he was selling the items to clients in the marketplace.
With the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, the judge asked Santillan who were his clients that he was selling the items to.
He said that they were vendors at the Port Lucaya Marketplace.
“You brought them (the items) from Ecuador?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” replied Santillan.
The prosecutor told the court that on making checks they learned that Santillan had applied for a work permit as a handyman which was still in the initial stages of processing. He further added Santillan has made regular trips to the Bahamas since November. He made one trip per month as a visitor, staying for three weeks.
When asked if he wanted to address the court, Santillan said customers had paid him money for the items and that he only had a small bag of items with him.
The judge told Santillan that although he had applied for a work permit, it was still being processed and he could not engage in any work until the permit was granted.
When asked if he speaks English, Santillan said he speaks a little of the language. He said he travelled to the Bahamas a tourist to Nassau in April and May. It was discovered that Santillan flew to Freeport with other Ecuadorians.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Ferguson convicted Santillan and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,500 or serve 18 consecutive months in prison. She also ordered that once the fine is paid, he is to be deported from the Bahamas immediately.