Former police union president pleads guilty to embezzlement
Published: October 23, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Donald Liburd, former president of the Police Benevolent Association union for St. Thomas and St. John, pleaded guilty to embezzlement and is set to be sentenced next month.
Liburd, 48, was scheduled last week to have a jury selected for his trial, which would have started this week, had he not changed his plea to not guilty and entered into a plea agreement.
The V.I. Attorney General's Office, represented by attorney Denise George Counts, will recommend two years of incarceration and restitution in the amount of $65,073 to the St. Thomas-St. John chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, according to the record of proceedings from V.I. Superior Court.
Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 12.
"He fraudulently wrote checks made payable to himself or cash and appropriated the funds therefrom to his own personal use or use of another without any lawful authority to do so," according to an amended information submitted in Superior Court last week.
The investigation into Liburd's activities began in September 2011 with a complaint by Cpl. Elroy Raymo, who succeeded Liburd as the union's president.
Raymo blew the whistle on Liburd after Liburd did not hold an election earlier that year, in June, when Liburd still was president. Union members impeached Liburd a month later.
After Liburd's impeachment, newly elected officers of the union reviewed the union's accounts and "discovered that none of the account balances resembled the amounts" that the union treasurer Shikima Rhymer had presented during the union's June meeting, the affidavit stated.
After reviewing further bank records, the newly elected officers became suspicious that funds had been misappropriated under Liburd's leadership.
The new officers then set up a meeting with Liburd at Molly Molones in Red Hook, where Liburd admitted that he had taken about $40,000 in union funds for his personal use and that Rhymer had nothing to do with the missing money because Liburd had taken possession of the union checkbook from her, according to past reports from The Daily News.
On Aug. 27, 2011, Liburd wrote a letter to Raymo stating:
"Dear President Raymo: I am requesting a meeting with the membership to discuss the matter of the Bank accounts which they have great concerns about. I know there are a lot of speculations about how and why the monies were withdrawn. I would like to discuss this matter with the members and throw myself at their mercy to have it resolved. I also would like to come up with a tentative agreement with the members to repay all of the monies back to the accounts without any dire consequences to befall upon me.
"I know this is an embarrassing situation to the previous administration and to me of my actions. I know I have let down many of the members but I promise I will correct the wrong and with their understanding we can go on with our lives."
Raymo reported his suspicions about the missing funds to police two days later.
Rhymer told investigators that Liburd would come to her house while she was on leave to ask her to countersign checks, according to court documents. Rhymer said Liburd frequently would have her countersign several blank checks at one time and assured her he would fill out all of the appropriate documentation later.
Liburd, who maintained all of the bank statements and account information, also would tell Rhymer what figures to include in her regular financial reports to the membership.
The affidavit lists at least 54 checks written out to Liburd or to "cash" for which there was no supporting documentation as required by union bylaws.
The checks, which span July 2008 to June 2011, were labeled for "union rep," "union business" and "atty fees," according to the affidavit.
In all, the affidavit accuses Liburd of misappropriating $65,073 of union funds for his own personal use, the same amount that Liburd is expected to pay in restitution.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.