Hung jury results in mistrial in St. Croix insurance agent embezzlement case


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ST. CROIX - It has been almost seven years since Sylvia Thomas, a former employee of Inter-Ocean Insurance Co., was arrested and charged with multiple counts of forgery and stealing money from her employer, but after a week of trial, her fate remains in limbo after a mistrial was declared in her case.

Thomas was arrested in August 2007 and charged with embezzlement; obtaining money under false pretenses; forgery; and making fraudulent claims upon the government, stemming from acts that the prosecution said date back to 2005.

After jurors spent two full days in deliberations and could not reach a unanimous verdict last week, V.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy was forced to declare a mistrial Monday as a result of the deadlocked jury.

It is not known how the jurors stood individually for and against a conviction in the case, and Assistant Attorney General Esther Walters said Wednesday that the prosecution plans to retry the case against Thomas.

Jurors received their final instruction from Molloy on Friday and began deliberations about 2 p.m.

They sent a number of messages to the court asking for clarification of the laws and their instructions. Just after 5 p.m., they indicated that they were hopelessly deadlocked.

Molloy had the jurors return to court on Monday, and they deliberated for another full day before indicating to the court on two occasions that they had not been able to reach a unanimous verdict.

During opening statements last week, Walters said she intended to prove that Thomas collected money from clients without authorization and never turned over the money to the company cashier to be logged in company records. Prosecutors contended that Thomas also submitted fraudulent documents to a local bank for a mortgage renewal insurance policy for herself and her husband and the policy did not exist. She also gave false documentation to the Motor Vehicle Bureau indicating that she and her husband had coverage on their vehicles, Walters said.

During the course of the trial, the prosecution called the co-owners of the company, a bank manager, a Bureau of Motor Vehicle supervisor and the case agent V.I. Police Detective Mirret Benta to testify.

Attorney Martial Webster, who represented Thomas, told the jurors that Thomas' former boss and owner of the company fabricated the charges against her and set out to ruin her life after she rejected his romantic overtures. Webster called back Benta as one of his witnesses and also called three people as character witnesses for Thomas and to testify that the accounting practices of the company may not be accurate.

By the time the trial had ended, the charges against Thomas had dwindled.

She started out being charged with 17 separate counts at the time of her arrest, but in amended information before the trial, a number of counts had been dismissed, leaving her charged with only nine counts.

Following the presentation of the prosecution's case last week, Molloy dismissed two additional counts against her - one count each of forgery and making fraudulent claims against the government.

Thomas, who had been released on bail with restrictive conditions, remains on those conditions of release while a second trial is scheduled.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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