Federal court indictment of 'Lolo' Willis alleges bribery, extortion during his time at Legislature


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ST. THOMAS - Among other bribes, Louis "Lolo" Willis accepted cash payments and an air conditioner from contractors that wanted work with the V.I. government, according to a federal court indictment made public Monday.

Willis, formerly the executive director of the V.I. Legislature from 2009 to 2012, was charged with three counts of federal programs bribery and three counts of extortion under color of official right on Thursday.

Prior to his position at the Legislature, Willis was the director of the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue from 2000 to 2006.

The indictment does not provide the details of the charges against Willis, who already is facing tax evasion charges in V.I. Superior Court after he was arrested in February, along with Gerard Castor, 68, president of Balbo Construction.

Willis is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for his arraignment on the federal charges, according to Peter Carr, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington, D.C.

Contracts

From 2009 to 2012, Willis received more than $10,000 in cash or other forms of bribery, according to the indictment.

Willis, in his position with the Legislature, assisted in the selection of contractors and the award of contracts and agreements for work at the Legislature, including construction, air conditioning, carpentry and other services, the indictment stated. He also received invoices from contractors for payment to the director of the business office of the Legislature, who in turn would prepare the check and then give it to the contractor for payment.

Three unnamed contractors, referred to as Contractors A, B and C, are implicated by the indictment. It is not yet known when their identities will be revealed. The indictment also does specify the cost of the work being performed, only whether it was more than $5,000.

"Court rules require that only the names of those charged in the indictment be included. This remains an ongoing investigation," Carr said.

Contractor A was a general construction contractor, doing business in the Virgin Islands from 2009 through 2010. The value of the contracts performed by contractor A was more than $5,000.

Contractor B was an air-conditioning contractor, doing business in the Virgin Islands from 2009 through 2012. The value of the air conditioning installation, maintenance and repair contracts performed by Contractor B was more than $5,000.

Carpenter C was a carpentry contractor, doing business in the Virgin Islands from 2009 through 2012. The value of the work done for the Legislature by Contractor C was more than $5,000.

At times, Willis would sign the checks to the contractors and give the checks to them, according to the indictment.

Willis is accused of taking at least $5,000 in cash payments between 2009 and 2010 from Contractor A for "Willis's use of his official position to provide favorable treatment for Contractor A in the award of contracting work at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands," according to the indictment.

Willis also is accused of accepting at least $10,000 in cash payments, an air conditioner and free labor to install the unit. The bribes, exchanged between 2009 and 2011, were to persuade Willis to use his official position to provide favorable treatment to Contractor B, the indictment stated.

Additionally, from 2010 to 2011, Willis is accused of accepting cash payments, though the estimated amount is not provided in court documents, from Contractor C.

Tax evasion

Willis also is facing territorial charges in V.I. Superior Court.

Following their arrest in February, Willis is facing one count of conspiracy to evade or defeat taxes and one count of fraud and providing false statements, and Castor is facing one count of conspiracy to evade or defeat taxes, one count of willful failure to collect or pay over tax and one count of fraud and providing false statements.

Willis's charges in the tax evasion case are tied to his tenure at the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau, where he served as the director from 2000 to 2006.

Willis is accused of understating on behalf of Castor more than two years of Gross Receipts Tax returns by almost $3 million dollars - creating a tax liability of almost $120,000.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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