Former IRB director pleads not guilty to tax evasion


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ST. THOMAS - Former V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau director Louis "Lo Lo" Willis pleaded not guilty in V.I. Superior Court to tax evasion charges.

Alongside him on Thursday, the president of a major St. Thomas construction company, Gerard Castor, also pleaded not guilty.

Willis, 55, and Castor, 68, both surrendered themselves after law enforcement authorities gave them the option the evening before their initial court appearance on Feb. 14.

Willis faces one count of conspiracy to evade or defeat taxes and one count of fraud and providing false statements, while Castor faces 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.

"They are serious offenses against the public interest," said Magistrate Henry Carr III during their initial advice-of-rights hearing.

Willis and Castor also appeared before Carr on Thursday for their arraignment.

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

At the advice-of-rights hearing for Willis and Castor, Carr set a bail of $75,000 for each man, though each met the 10 percent bond by posting property.

Willis was the executive director of the Internal Revenue Bureau from 2000 to 2006. According to prosecutors, Willis assisted Castor in evading and defeating the Gross Receipts taxes and corporate taxes for Castor's company, Balbo Construction Inc., repeatedly between 2002 and 2006.

Willis approved tax clearance forms, disregarding delinquent filings and payments from Balbo Construction, and also accepted $5,000 from Castor to turn in tax returns that understated the Gross Receipts Tax returns by almost $3 million, according to court documents.

Willis left the Internal Revenue Bureau in December 2006, going into retirement, though he ran unsuccessfully for a Senate seat in 2012.

Willis continued to help Castor by preparing Castor's Gross Receipts Tax returns from 1998 to 2007 for a fee of $5,000, which was off the books, the affidavit said.

V.I. Assistant Attorney General Denise George Counts and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Chisolm are working together to prosecute the case.

Attorney Treston Moore is representing Willis, and attorney Darren John-Baptiste is representing Castor.

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

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