Alvin Williams Jr.'s Senate staff Alvin Williams Jr., 34 Sen. Alvin Williams Jr. charged with bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud
Published: November 9, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Sen. Alvin Williams Jr. was arrested by federal agents Thursday and charged with bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud.
The proceeds of Williams' criminal activities totalled $1.1 million, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
About 4 p.m. Thursday, almost a dozen 10 FBI agents converged on the V.I. Legislature building on St. Thomas, according to several eyewitnesses.
The agents went inside and came out escorting Kim Blackett, who is listed on the Legislature website as Williams' chief of staff. Blackett also was charged in an indictment filed Thursday.
Another staff member also was charged, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which did not release the person's name.
Senate President Ronald Russell said he was on St. Croix at the time the agents arrived at the Legislature, but he was informed of the arrest. Russell said he was told that Williams had surrendered to law enforcement officers.
"He turned himself in, that's what I understand," Russell said.
Russell said he had no additional information Thursday.
In October 2011, about 25 federal and local law enforcement officers raided the St. Thomas Senate building and Williams' office.
A federal grand jury handed up an indictment Thursday charging Williams, Blackett and a third person with operating and participating in criminal activities including bribery, wire fraud and mail fraud, U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands Ronald Sharpe said in a prepared statement.
The indictment has not yet been posted by the District Court. However, the statement from Sharpe includes a number of details from the charging documents including that Williams is 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 kick-backs 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.
According to Sharpe, if Blackett and Williams are convicted, they face a maximum 20-year prison sentence and up to $250,000 in fines.
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., a company in which Williams had an interest, Sharpe said.
In his answers to a Daily News candidate questionnaire for the 2006 Voter Guide, Williams said he was the owner of Ace Development Inc.
At the time, Darryl Smalls was the Public Works Commissioner. When The Daily News reached Smalls on Thursday night, he said he had no comment.
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 which Ace Development received a contract related to the construction of Raphune Vistas, Sharpe said.
As part of the contract, Ace Development used and/or rented construction equipment to the developers, Sharpe wrote.
In May 2009, the Senate approved a zoning change for Oceanside Village Inc., the developers of Raphune Vistas, from R-1, residential low density one- and two-family, to R-4, residential medium density - against the recommendations of the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
In June 2009, Gov. John deJongh Jr. vetoed the zoning change.
Tutu wind turbines
In September 2008, Williams asked for and received a $10,000 campaign contribution from the developers of the Tutu Park windmill project as a bribe to support legislation supporting the project, Sharpe said.
Williams also solicited $25,000 in campaign contributions from the wind turbine developers between September 2008 and September 2009, according to the federal prosecutor.
A number of companies were involved with the wind turbine project, including Green Power Electric; Dallas-based Earth, Wind and Power; and Island Wind Power.
When the Senate passed a comprehensive renewable energy bill in 2009, an amendment was tacked on to change the zoning code to allow wind turbines in B-1 and B-3 business zones without having to seek separate zoning approval. The legislation also would have allowed wholesale renewable energy production in B-4 and B-3 zones.
The measure was line-item vetoed by deJongh in July 2009.
Campaign funds and false reports
From January 2006 to December 2011, Williams and a legislative staff member failed to deposit certain campaign contributions; withdrew funds from a campaign account; and submitted false campaign disclosure reports that failed to include certain contributions, according to Sharpe.
Kick-backs from staff
In the summer of 2010, Williams tried to solicit kick-backs from his own staff in exchange for giving them salary increases, the statement from the U.S. attorney's office said.
According to Sharpe, 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, Williams received such a bribe, Sharpe said.
University of Phoenix
From April 2007 to February 2008 and from January 2008 to October 2011, Williams and a staff member committed federal wire fraud as the senator sought online degrees from the University of Phoenix.
"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, Sharpe said.
"As the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Inspector General will aggressively pursue anyone who games the Education system for their own selfish purpose," Special Agent-in-charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Yessyka Santana said in a written statement.
The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by the Public Corruption Task Force, a joint federal and local team.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Lindquist, Nolan Paige and Kelly Lake.
"The prosecution of public corruption is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney's Office," Sharpe said. "It is a breach of the public trust for public officials to use their office for personal gain."
"These individuals have allegedly abused their powers by utilizing their positions to discreetly conduct illegal activities," IRS-CI Special Agent-in-charge Jose Gonzalez said Thursday. "IRS-CI is committed to following the money trail to ensure that public officials who use their office to line their own pockets are brought to justice and deprived of their ill-gotten gains."
Sharpe asked anyone with direct knowledge of illegal acts or information on corruption in the Virgin Islands to call the Public Corruption Task Force at 715-6516.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Kim Blackett, chief of staff.
Garry Sprauve, senior advisor.
Rasheen St. Juste, constituent officer.
Phillip Harrigan, public relations officer-committee coordinator.
Jonee' Edwards, administrative assistant, legislative aide.
Sources: V.I. Legislature website, www.legvi.org; Williams' answers to Daily News 2006 Voter Guide questionnaire. Democrat
Senator, St. Thomas-St. John District.
27th, 28th, 29th Legislatures.
Committees: Chairman of Planning and Environment Protection; vice-chairman of Government Operations; member of Rules and Judiciary, Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs, Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice; liaison to the U.S. Congress.
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."