‘Bishop’ Conto Escapes Jail

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‘Bishop’ Manasseh Conto, one of the two ‘religious leaders’ accused of duping (cheating, tricking) a Korean national, Hungchi Choi, of over US$400,000 now has a chance to fight his legal battle outside of prison.

Conto gained his freedom after the International Insurance Company (IIC) recently took responsibility for his case.

The company’s commitment came immediately after prosecutors challenged the bail which initially secured the release of ‘Bishop’ Conto and ‘Pastor’ Steve Kettor from their cells at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Conto, who is also an overseer of the Mission for Today Holy Church Incorporated, located in New Kru Town, was the only person that appeared during the hearing at Criminal Court ‘C,’ where he and his co-defendant are expected to stand trial.

Conto, along with Kettor, were both recognized as the new general manager of the company. They are to face charges of theft of property and misapplication of entrusted property brought against them by the government.

At Monday’s hearing, Foday Sessay, head of the insurance company, said he was responsible for the defendants should they escape bond, and that he was also prepared to restitute Hungchi’s money if the defendants were to escape the trial.

“The responsibility of our bond is to make sure that the defendants appear in court on a daily basis whenever the court needs them,” Sessay said, adding, “if the defendants fail to appear in court, let the court hold us accountable.”

Although the insurance company committed itself to taking responsibility for Conto and Kettor if they were to escape from the country while being covered by their bail, Judge Paye chose to keep his ruling on the matter.

He did not say when he will bring down his decision.

In the document that brought ‘Bishop’ Conto under the jurisdiction of the court, it alleges that ‘Pastor’ Kettor, who until yesterday had remained at large, entered into a vehicle rental contract with the World Food Program (WFP) Liberia office for a monthly payment of US$18,445, an amount the defendants collected for five months from October 13, 2014 to March 2015.

The court record alleged further that the two accused ‘clergymen’ received the money in the name of SACS Group, a company created jointly by the duo.

According to the document, the pair along with one Smith, used SACS Group for the sole purpose of siphoning (draining off) money from the Korea Trading Corporation.

It was during the time when the company provided car rental services to several customers.

“’Bishop’ Conto, ‘Pastor’ Kettor and Smith received through Korea Trading Corporation’s Ecobank account number 0061024724121001 the amount of US$92,225, out of which the company allegedly received US$31,320, leaving a balance of US$60,905 unaccounted for,” the court record claims.

Besides, the court record alleged that Kettor as general manager of Korea Trading Corporation entered into an agreement on behalf of his company with the US military personnel who were in Liberia to help in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

During the execution of the contract, Kettor rented two pickup trucks belonging to the Korea Trading Corporation to the Marines, for which he allegedly received US$17,850, but only paid US$1,000 to the company, and failed to account for the balance of US$16,875.

While Hungchi was out of the country due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus, Kettor, without his boss’ permission, underpriced and sold five of the company’s vehicles for which the company suffered the loss of US$13,200, according to the document.

“Kettor, without authority was involved in transportation business with 14 vehicles and generated US$32,630, whereupon you paid US$6,526 to the corporation, but failed to account for the balance of US$26, 104,” the indictment said.

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