Alvin Williams, chief of staff plead not guilty to racketeering, bribery


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ST. THOMAS - Sen. Alvin Williams Jr. and his chief of staff Kim Blackett pleaded not guilty to a number of racketeering and bribery charges in federal court Wednesday.

A trial date has been set for Jan. 7.

Garry Sprauve, Williams' senior adviser, turned himself over to the U.S. Marshals on Wednesday morning. He was arrested just inside the front entrance to the District Court and advised of his rights.

Sprauve's arraignment is scheduled for next Wednesday.

The indictment, which was unsealed by the court on Wednesday, also charges Ace Development - a company that Williams has an interest in, according to the federal government - with racketeering, conflict of interest and bribery.

According to the Lt. Governor's Office Division of Corporations and Trademarks, the president of Ace Development is Alvin Williams Sr. The four parties - Ace Development, Blackett, Sprauve, and Williams - were named in an indictment filed last Thursday. The indictment was handed up after a grand jury investigation.

In October 2011, about 25 federal and local law enforcement officers raided the St. Thomas Senate building and Williams' office. It was the first indication to the public that the senator was under criminal investigation.

The proceeds of Williams' criminal activities totalled $1.1 million, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, Williams is charged with nine counts and accused of:

- Attempting to bribe Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls with $10,000 in cash.

- Accepting bribes from the developers of Raphune Vistas.

- Accepting $35,000 in bribes from the developers of the wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall.

- Soliciting kickbacks from his own staff in exchange for salary raises.

- Committing wire fraud by using public funds to pay for courses and having staff members submit work in his name to obtain an online degree in his name from University of Phoenix.

- Misusing campaign funds and submitting false campaign disclosure reports.

At the end of Wednesday's court proceeding, the prosecution moved to unseal the indictment. District Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller accepted the motion.

Sprauve

According to the charging documents, Sprauve is charged with racketeering, false or fraudulent claims, embezzlement, and offenses relating to public money, property or records.

Sprauve was involved in both the campaign fund misuse and false reporting, as well as the salary kickback scheme, according to the indictment.

In the summer of 2010, Williams tried to solicit kickbacks from his own staff in exchange for giving them salary increases, according to the indictment.

The staff members were supposed to withdraw a portion of the increased salary in cash and give it to Williams.

From September 2010 to July 2011, Sprauve participated in the scheme, according to the charging documents.

He also conspired with Williams to take money from a campaign account and failed to report campaign contributions, according to court records.

Sprauve was not arrested last week along with Williams and Blackett because he was out of the territory receiving medical attention, according to Williams' defense attorney, Gordon Rhea.

Rhea stood in temporarily for Sprauve's attorney, Mark Fury, who is from New Jersey and has not yet filled out the required paperwork to appear before the Virgin Islands court.

Miller appointed local attorney Darren Jn. Baptiste to represent Williams until Fury can take over the case.

Sprauve was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond Wednesday.

Blackett

Blackett was arrested at the V.I. Legislature by federal agents last week and released on a $50,000 unsecured bond. She appeared in court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges she faces: one racketeering charge and nine charges related to fraud activity connected with computers.

According to the indictment, she was involved in obtaining an online degree for Williams using public funds.

From April 2007 to February 2008 and from January 2008 to October 2011, Williams and Blackett committed federal wire fraud as the senator sought online degrees from the University of Phoenix, according to a statement issued last week by U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands Ronald Sharpe.

"The indictment alleges that the staff member falsely submitted various documents that were generated, created and authored by others under the direction of and in the name of Williams," Sharpe said in the statement.

From January 2008 to October 2011, Williams and Blackett defrauded the government by using public funds for non-legislative purposes, namely pursuing an online degree for Williams, the indictment said.

Gabriel Villegas, the federal public defender, was appointed to represent Blackett.

Ace Development

The federal indictment does not detail the relationship Williams has to Ace Development, it simply says he "has an interest" in the company.

However, in his answers to a Daily News candidate questionnaire for the 2006 Voter Guide, Williams said he was the owner of Ace Development Inc.

According to the Lt. Governor's Office, his father, Alvin Williams Sr., is the president and a director of the company; Shanell Larsen is the secretary/treasurer and a director; Jennifer Williams is a director.

The incorporators of Ace Development are listed at the Lt. Governor's Office as Treston Moore, Charles Russell Jr. and Lindiwe Sewer.

Moore was in court Wednesday. He said he was not representing the company, but as an incorporator, he was accepting the service of summons to appear in court. He said the principles of the company will be notified.

Ace Development is charged with one count of racketeering, two counts of bribery involving federal programs and four counts of conflict of interest-bribery.

According to the charging documents, on Sept. 5, 2009, Williams gave the V.I. Public Works Commissioner $10,000 in cash in an attempt to bribe him to give contracts to Ace Development Inc.

Between Feb. 21, 2007, and Nov. 18, 2011, Williams solicited a bribe from the developers of the Raphune Vista housing development project on St. Thomas, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. The indictment says Williams promoted legislative action and supported the authorization of funding and zoning of the project in exchange for Ace Development receiving a contract related to the construction of Raphune Vistas.

The contract awarded to Ace Development was valued at $2 million, but Ace Development only received $789,477.49, according to the indictment.

As part of the contract, Ace Development used and/or rented construction equipment to the developers, the indictment said.

Williams

Williams is charged with one count each for racketeering, conflict of interest-bribery, bribery involving federal programs, false or fraudulent claims, embezzlement, fraud activity connected with computers, and offenses relating to public money, property or records.

He is charged with two additional counts of bribery involving federal programs.

The senator is at the center of all the charges in the indictment. In addition to the misused campaign funds, the online degree, bribes to get contracts for Ace Development, and an employee kick-back scheme, Williams is also accused of soliciting bribes from the developers of the wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall.

According to the indictment, Williams solicited a $10,000 bribe - in the form of a campaign contribution - from the developers of the wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall. The court records do not indicate who the developer is, but a number of companies were involved with the project, including Green Power Electric; Dallas-based Earth, Wind and Power; and Island Wind Power.

Williams then solicited a $25,000 campaign contribution from the developer, the indictment said.

Both bribes were made to get Williams to promote legislation in support of the wind turbine project, according to the charging documents.

After the hearing Wednesday, Williams' attorney said they look forward to a fight in open court.

"The senator holds his head high," Rhea said. "He's done nothing wrong, and I'm going to fight with him to clear his name."

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi. Alvin Williams Jr.

- Racketeering.

- Bribery involving federal programs (three counts).

- Graft and conflict of interest - bribery.

- False or fraudulent claims upon government.

- Obtaining money by false pretense.

- Embezzlement and falsification of a public account.

- Obtaining money by false pretense relating to an online university degree.

- Offenses relating to public money, property or records.

Garry Sprauve

- Racketeering.

- False or fraudulent claims upon government.

- Obtaining money by false pretense.

- Embezzlement and falsification of a public account.

- Offenses relating to public money, property or records.

Kim Blackett

- Racketeering.

- Obtaining money by false pretense relating to an online university degree (nine counts).

Ace Development Inc.

- Racketeering.

- Bribery involving federal programs (two counts).

- Graft and conflict of interest - bribery (four counts).

Alvin

Williams Jr., 34

Democrat

Senator, St. Thomas-St. John District.

27th, 28th, 29th Legislatures.

Committees: Chairman of Human Services, Recreation and Sports; vice-chairman of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice; member of Health and Hospitals, Housing and Labor, Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs; secretary for Intergovernmental and Territorial Affairs.

Education: 1996 graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School. Claims to have earned an AA online degree from University of Phoenix, but federal indictment puts that in question.

Community positions: Former president of St. Thomas-St. John Horse Owners Association.

Prior employment: Owner of Ace Development Inc. and general manager of Alvin Williams Trucking and Heavy Equipment Rental, which his

Legislature website says has been "contracted by the federal and local governments to provide major development services in the territory."

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