'Lolo' Willis pleads not guilty to federal extortion, bribery charges

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ST. THOMAS - Former executive director of the V.I. Legislature Louis "Lolo" Willis pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal bribery and extortion charges in District Court.

Willis, 55, surrendered himself Wednesday morning to the court and was released on an unsecured $75,000 bond set by District Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller.

A federal grand jury delivered an indictment on May 8 that charged Willis with three counts of bribery and three counts of extortion under the color of official right.

Willis is accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes from three unnamed contractors from 2009 through 2012, during which time he held the position at the Legislature.

In his job as executive director, Willis oversaw the approval of contracts for capital projects, though he skipped over the bidding process and sometimes the approval of the finance department, according to the indictment.

Willis is being represented by a private attorney, Treston Moore, though Moore said that Willis is financially strapped and later may have to have an attorney appointed through the Federal Public Defender's Office.

Willis, now a retiree, still receives monthly checks from the Government Employees Retirement System, Moore said.

GERS is not able to disclose the amount that the system sends to individual employees, according to GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs.

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

Following his arrest in February, Willis was charged with one count of conspiracy to evade or defeat taxes and one count of fraud and providing false statements.

Balbo Construction President Gerard Castor, 68, also was arrested in February and is Willis' co-defendant in the case.

Castor is charged with 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.

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

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