Jury deliberations to continue Monday in St. Croix insurance embezzlement case

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ST. CROIX - A V.I. Superior Court jury will continue its deliberations on Monday in the case of Sylvia Thomas, a former employee of Inter-Ocean Insurance Co., who is charged with multiple counts of stealing money from her employer and submitting forged information to the government.

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.

Jurors received their final instruction from V.I. Superior Court Robert 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 after exploring the elements of each of the counts.

Molloy sent them back to deliberate, asking them to continue their discussions and not be afraid to change their position in either way if they realize they had been wrong.

The jurors returned to the deliberation room, but were interrupted shortly after that, when it was brought to the attention of the court that one of the jurors had to retire for the night for a religious observation.

Molloy admonished them before the dismissal, reminding them not to look at any media account of the case or discuss it in anyway until they return to court on Monday.

Jurors were selected Monday, and on Tuesday, they heard opening statements from the attorneys for each side.

Assistant Attorney General Esther 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 contend 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 week 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 is representing 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.

Charges against Thomas have dwindled.

She started out being charged with 17 separate counts at the time of her arrest, but in an 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 Tuesday, Molloy dismissed two additional counts against her - one count each of forgery and making fraudulent claims against the government.

Thomas remains free on bail pending the outcome of the trial.

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

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