The former governor of the US Virgin Islands was arrested on Tuesday morning on two felony counts of alleged financial improprieties in relation to widely publicized security improvements on his house in 2007.
John deJongh was arrested by USVI authorities on charges of embezzling public funds and failing to use public funds for their intended purpose, in violation of Title 14, Section 1662 and 1663 of the Virgin Islands Code, attorney general nominee Claude Walker stated.
“Today, August 18, 2015, I announce the arrests of the former governor of the Virgin Islands, John P. deJongh, Jr., and Julito Frances, former director of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority,” Walker told reporters at a brief press conference
“This morning both men were advised of their constitutional rights before a Superior Court magistrate in the St Thomas district. Both men were arrested on two counts: embezzlement of public monies and neglecting to pay over public monies in violation of the Virgin Islands criminal code,” Walker said.
“We allege that on or about April 2007 through January 2009 both men, being public officers, acted in concert in the process of conversion of public monies for private use and executed several government contracts to convert $490,000.25 of Virgin Islands government highway funds to fund improvements to the private residence of former governor John deJongh Jr., without authority of law,” Walker said.
Both charges are punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and up to ten years in prison, or both. If convicted, neither man would be eligible to run for public office in the US Virgin Islands, Walker said.
“We allege that on or about April 2007 through January 2009, both men — being public offices — acted in concert in the process of conversion of public monies for private use and executed several government contracts to convert $490,000.25 of Virgin Islands government highway funds to fund improvements to the private residence of former governor DeJongh without authority of law,” Walker outlined. “These funds, however, were specifically earmarked by the Virgin Islands legislature … to repair public roads. Both men will be arraigned in approximately two weeks. As always, we remind the public that any person accused of any crime is innocent until proven guilty.”
At the press conference on Tuesday, Walker declined to answer detailed questions from local reporters about federal law enforcement activities in this matter.
“I cannot provide information on that,” Walker said when asked if more arrests are coming.
“This was a local matter handled by the attorney general’s office,” Walker answered when asked if federal law enforcement officials were involved.
During the advice of rights hearing Tuesday, the judge found probable cause to uphold the charges based upon a filed affidavit from investigator Kenneth Schulterbrandt outlining the charges against deJongh and Francis.
In the affidavit, Schulterbrandt alleges that deJongh and Francis authorized the spending of $490,000 for the security improvements and began the procurement process based on a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office and notification from Public Works officials that the money, earmarked for roadwork, could also “be used for other projects.”
“After receiving the authorization to proceed from the Public Finance Authority, Property and Procurement awarded approximately $490,000.25 in contracts related to security improvements at Governor deJongh’s private residence,” the affidavit said.
“These contracts were issued to erect a permanent, concrete, stone faced, security guard house; construct a new driveway and parking; and install aluminum security fencing as well as surveillance equipment. The funds were spent without the benefit of a formal security vulnerability assessment to determine the level of security the governor would require or the most cost-effective way of providing the security,” according to the affidavit.
Schulterbrandt said the security work was recommended by deJongh’s security chief prior to the spending of the funds.
When deJongh took office in 2007, he decided to live at his private residence, rather than the residence set aside in Estate Catharineberg.
Public Works spent $490,000 on a security system, fencing, a guardhouse and changes to the driveway and parking.
Earlier this year, deJongh sent a check to the USVI government for $203,000, but the current administration refused to take any payment, with the then-acting attorney general saying that taking partial payment would, for unspecified reasons, force the government to agree that no more than that total was owed.
SOURCE: Caribbean News Now