Blackett, Sprauve plead guilty
Published: March 21, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Prosecutors notched two more guilty pleas Wednesday in the corruption case centered on former Sen. Alvin Williams Jr.
Kim Blackett, formerly Williams' chief of staff, and Garry Sprauve, a senior adviser to Williams, pleaded guilty to one charge each in relation to the case.
Blackett, who was severed as a defendant and re-charged in a superseding information Wednesday, pleaded guilty in a new two-count document charging her with the V.I. crime of making fraudulent claims upon the government related to an online degree and the federal crime of wire fraud related to an online degree.
Blackett pleaded guilty to the local charge, which exposes her to up to two years in prison and a fine of $500.
She originally was charged as part of a nine-count indictment against her, Williams, Sprauve and Ace Development, a company owned by Williams' father, Alvin Williams Sr.
That indictment jointly accused Blackett and Alvin Williams Jr. of obtaining money by false pretenses contrary to V.I. law and did not include any federal charges against Blackett.
Her attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Gabriel Villegas, moved to dismiss that charge earlier this month, arguing that the indictment posed "an unjust linguistic anomaly," attempting to accuse Alvin Williams Jr. and Blackett of perpetrating a crime of which Alvin Williams Jr. was also a victim.
The new charge makes Blackett's role clearer, namely that she aided and abetted in a false representation to the government by Alvin Williams Jr. insofar as the senator hired Blackett as a legislative staff member but was paying her with government funds to do his coursework toward an online degree from the University of Phoenix between 2008 and 2011, according to court documents and statements in court Wednesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Lake.
Sprauve pleaded guilty to one of the three charges he faced in the original indictment, which jointly accused him and Alvin Williams Jr. of engaging in a conspiracy related to making fraudulent claims upon the government, obtaining money by false pretenses, and embezzlement and falsification of a public account, all contrary to Virgin Islands law.
Sprauve entered a plea of guilty to the first charge, which exposes him to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine, according to statements in court Wednesday. It carries the lowest maximum penalty of the three charges he was facing.
As part of the plea, Sprauve agreed that the government would have proven, had the case gone to trial, that Alvin Williams Jr. and Sprauve solicited a $10,000 bribe from the developers of the Tutu Park Mall wind turbine project. The men instructed the developers to pay the bribe as 10 separate $1,000 campaign contributions to Alvin Williams Jr., causing the developers to believe they were making legitimate political contributions, according to Lake.
The developers wrote the checks and mailed them, and Sprauve deposited them into Alvin Williams Jr.'s campaign bank account but never reported the contributions as required by V.I. law, Lake said.
Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez accepted both pleas and set the defendants' sentencing for June 20. Prosecutors recommended that the conditions of release for both defendants remain in place until sentencing.
Alvin Williams Jr. previously pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge in the case and is scheduled to be sentenced April 25 by Gomez.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.