by Mercus Manley, Investigative Reporter….

December 5, 2015 – UPDATE (Jamaica Observer) – Despite her charitable endeavors, accountant Pamella Watson has been sentenced to 6.5 years in a US federal prison and ordered to pay more than US$3.68 million in restitution for tax fraud. Her spouse claims that he was unaware of her illegal activities. More

September 25, 2015 – UPDATE (Sun Sentinel / Broward Sheriff’s Office Handout) –  Acccountant Pamella Watson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge earlier today, Friday, September 25. Authorities said she ripped off Uncle Sam and some of the people who trusted her most — to the tune of more than $3.4 million. She faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she is sentenced on December 4 in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. As part of her plea agreement, she has agreed to turn over money she kept in an account in Jamaica to the U.S. government and victims, authorities said. More

May 23, 2015 – The certified public accountant admitted Friday she used her Miami-based tax preparation business, Watson & Associates Business Services, Inc., to prepare false tax returns and run an income tax refund fraud scheme.

Pamella Watson in brighter times
Pamella Watson in brighter times

The recent damning accusations of tax fraud, identity theft and money laundering made by the federal authorities against respected accountant, financial advisor, esteemed entrepreneur, philanthropist, and role model Pamella Watson, founder and CEO of Watson and Associates (Accounting and Financial Services) have left most of us in the Caribbean community in wide-eyed surprise.  This is perceived by a number of individuals as “must be a mistake by the federal authorities”; how could such claims be made against this God-fearing, well-accomplished lady who has contributed greatly to the development and improved image of the South Florida Caribbean community?

Over the years many of us have admired her from a distance or looked up to her as an exemplar female entrepreneur. She has been extremely supportive of Caribbean-related causes, provided employment opportunities to college graduates, helped the less fortunate, selflessly shared her time and reasoned advice in support of non-profit and for-profit ventures; demonstrated active leadership to her high school alumni and more recently as a founding member of the Jamaican Women of Florida (JWOF).

IRS Fraud3How could such misfortune befall this iconic member of the community who spent over 20 years building her comprehensive financial services business from scratch? Many are still waiting to hear that the authorities are wrong on this one despite what appears to be critical evidence based on press reports.

As we ponder this serious situation, instead of jumping to conclusions, let us all remember the importance of Ethics2sticking to ethical standards in our daily lives. There are and will always be many temptations to cut corners and take advantage of other people’s weaknesses but we should endeavor not to. We need to work hard at towing the thin line between high achievement and greed. Who does not want to be successful in life? Ambition is a very good character trait but we should not allow it to push us across the line into illegal or unethical activities. Let us instead strive for consistent character and business growth sustained over time rather than getting caught up in the fast lane that could lead to a precipitous fall.

Our thoughts and prayers go out for Ms. Watson who is likely facing the greatest challenge of her lifetime. May God give her the strength to overcome.