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Claudius Letang AKA Cocum
Claudius Letang AKA Cocum

Dominican political activist, Claudius 'Cocum' Letang has learnt the hard way that unfounded trust can be costly.

The mechanic said his trusting nature caused him to put thousands of dollars in the hands of an 'agent'.

All the money was acquired from loans and several persons and financial institutions are now demanding the repayment of money they lent him for transactions involving the agent.

Cocum's troubles began in 2010 when he was sourcing a 'bus shell' for an associate. His new-found 'agent' told him about one being sold for $3,500 in St Lucia and the two agreed to travel there to buy it.

The next day someone calling himself 'Joe Kendall' phoned Letang from St Lucia saying there was no need for them to travel there because he would ship the item to Dominica on his boat

Cocum forked out $3,500 for the item plus $1,200 for shipping and entrusted his 'agent' to pay Kendall.

"After this, he called me . . . and asked if I would like any other things," Letang said.

Using his father's land as security, Letang borrowed about $75,000 from a credit union and entrusted the agent to pay Kendall to procure two engines and several vehicle parts.

"We (Letang and the associate for whom he was buying the bus shell) waited . . . waited . . . waited . . . no parts. Every day . . . a different story," Cocum lamented.

The agent told him that he and Kendall were coming to Dominica with the parts, but the boat broke down near Martinique and he needed $7,000 from Letang to take the vessel back to St Lucia.

Letang asked them to ship the engines up front and sent $2000 for Kendall to do so. Kendall subsequently told him that the engines had been shipped on a vessel 'Lady L'; but there is no record of any such vessel.

Cocum said he found himself in a nightmare involving lies, fictitious characters and large sums of his money spent on wild goose chases to St Lucia, St Vincent and Antigua.

First, he was told that Kendall had sold the vehicle parts and Letang should go to St Lucia for the money. Cocum went but Kendall never showed up.

Then Letang was told that authorities in another island had seized the funds and he was persuaded to put up a sum of money to get it back, but to no avail.

Kendall further requested thousands of dollars so he could get a bank loan to repay the debt.

Later, Cocum was told that Kendall's son fell ill en route to deliver the money from the bank loan and had amassed a hospital debt of about $18,000.

Finally, he was told that Kendall's son was in St Lucia and he should meet him there to collect his money. Cocum went, but no one showed up.

Letang contacted the authorities in St. Lucia, but there is no record of a Joe Kendall or his son on that island.

As the story unfolded, the persons involved even used the name of Antigua's Prime Minister Gaston Brown.

Sometime before Brown became PM, someone pretending to be him offered to help Cocum to prosecute those involved in the scheme.

Again, Letang sent thousands of dollars via his agent, purportedly to Brown, but he had been duped.

Cocum said he repeatedly gave his agent money for all the transactions because he trusted his agent absolutely.

However he realized belatedly that the money was not being used for the purposes it was given.

Letang has retained attorney-at-law Henry Shillingford and secured a legal document signed by his agent, acknowledging the massive debt.

In the document, the man acknowledges "terrible deficit" and accepts liability to Letang for the full amount, which cannot be accounted for.

He also acknowledges that part of the debt, which is documented by signed receipts, is immediately due and payable.

He accepts inter alia, that he was grossly negligent and personally liable for all the sums stated in the document.

He also agreed to repay a large portion of the debt from his Antigua bank account and Letang is expected to travel there in the hope of getting the money to repay his creditors.

The police in Dominica, St Vincent and St Lucia are aware of the situation.