Woman who faked oil and gas training to face 17 charges
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has recommended that charges be laid against a woman named as Simone Fortune, the General Secretary for the Inland and Offshore Recruiting and Clearing Agency (IORCA), who has been accused of operating a fake oil and gas training course. Fortune is expected to appear in the New Amsterdam Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday to answer to 17 charges of obtaining monies by false pretense.
The matter was initially filed for Tuesday but the News Room understands that because of the number of complainants it was postponed to Wednesday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 20 matters are heard daily in magistrate’s court.
Fortune had last advertised training courses for Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers at a total cost of $160,000. Persons were told that they would receive competency and endorsement certificates from Honduras and Panama that would guarantee employment in the petroleum sector.
So far, 17 persons have come forward and filed official complaints after they did not receive their certificates. The course was done between January 13 and 17, 2020.
“In 2019 a friend of mine did the seamen course in Georgetown and he came back and he got his certificate and afterwards and I saw it as an opportunity to get into the oil and gas [industry], so I told a friend about it and he told me there is a woman in New Amsterdam who does the very course,” one of the affected men who prefers to remain anonymous told the News Room.
He explained that after meeting with Fortune and hearing about the benefits of doing the course, he made the down payment. But before he could have begun the course, there were rumors of it being fake and illegitimate.
“…I went to her and told her what I heard and that I wanted my money back and I am going to Georgetown and do it there. She relayed that her business is legit and within six weeks I will get my certificate,” the man explained.
He then agreed to do the course and waited patiently for his certificate.
Meanwhile, in late February 2020 another course for rigging was advertised this time at a cost of $100,000.
The man explained that he jumped on this training and paid to do the course.
“In relation to the rigging course, a guy from Trinidad came in and lectured the course. He was from a company called North Sea Listings and they had specific criteria and standards before they carry our practical, and she did not had that at the time so the guy was forced to come back a week later and the pandemic hit and he could not come,” the man stated.
He explained that when they began inquiring about their certificates from the initial course “she kept using the pandemic as an excuse to not provide us with the certificates.”
A meeting was then held in early August with the men where Fortune reportedly asked for more patience and stated that within five days the men would receive their certificates or be given a refund.
“The time passed, so I went to the office and it was closed, I called her and I did not get unto her.”
A PDF version of their certificates was subsequently sent via a Whatsapp group but it was not from Panama or Honduras but a company Macosnar Training Institute Corp.
The woman then reportedly sought to explain that the original agreement for the certificate to be procured from the companies in Honduras and Panama was no longer in operation but the certificates issued were more authentic.
However, there was an email at the bottom of the certificate where persons were asked to email for queries or questions.
The man said he was advised to email the company to inquire about the authenticity of the certificate and also ask for the original copy.
“The company replied and said that the certificate attached was fake and invalid.”
After weeks of no response from Fortune, a report was made to the Regional Commander at the time, Calvin Brutus who got ranks to start an investigation into the matter. After the investigation was completed a file was sent to the DPP for advice and subsequently sent back for additional information.
The DPP finally recommended charges for Fortune.