Prominent local Jamaican-American accountant Pamella Watson, 61, had been sentenced to six and a half years in Broward Federal Court Thursday morning. In October, Watson pled guilty to wire fraud, which attracted a maximum 20-year sentence.
Watson however got a slight reprieve, following her agreement to restitute $1.5 million out of the $3.68 million she took from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by falsifying her clients’ tax returns. At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, both Watson’s lawyer Bruce Rogow and the prosecuting attorney agreed to the prosecution’s 4-year sentence recommendation for Watson. However, the judge decided on 6 years and six months. She will likely serve her term in the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, 50 miles northwest of Orlando, Florida.
Watson was a prominent member of South Florida’s Caribbean-American community, serving on several organizations’ boards, while operated her tax accounting firm in North Miami since the 1990s. She was arrested on May 20 on charges of tax fraud, money laundering and wire fraud. However, she accepted a plea bargain to plead guilty for the wire fraud and the other charges were dropped.
At her sentencing, her spouse Eric and other prominent members of the Caribbean-American community, including Joan Seaga-Gonzalez, pleaded with the court for a lenient sentence. All those who spoke in her support said they never knew Watson to anything less than honest and professional in her personal life and business dealings. Watson wept openly as her supporters spoke on her behalf. Her attorney also received strong letters of support from several members of the local community, and from prominent Jamaicans in Jamaica.
Watson also addressed the court, and apologized to the community, her clients, relatives and friends “for being selfish, and creating such a mess.”
Rogow informed the court that Watson has agreed to make restitution from proceeds of her property sales in Miami and Jamaica. Watson was urged to include in the restitution profits from the sale of her $1.5 million home in Davie, Florida. However, this offer is still pending while the court assesses the financial status of the property.
Local attorneys contacted after Watson’s sentencing said the ruling “was more or less fair,” especially since she agreed to make partial restitution. One attorney said since federal sentencing requires a convict to serve at least three-quarters of their sentence, she could be released after serving just four years. Watson has also been sentenced to serving a three-year supervised probation, following her prison term.
Following her sentencing, Watson family members expressed gratitude to those members of the community who offered support and prayers on Watson’s behalf. They also expressed relief that the sentencing was not the 20 years that she could have received.