Miller's attorney asks for delay in tax trial


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ST. THOMAS ­- Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez said Wednesday that he will consider setting the trial of Rodney Miller Sr., who is accused of filing a false tax return, for mid to late July.

Gomez heard a motion for an extension of time filed by Miller's attorney, Gabriel Villegas, on Wednesday.

Villegas said the defense needs extra time to have a forensic accountant review records of transactions from 2007 provided by Scotiabank. The records showed payments to Miller from Peter Najawicz.

Miller, Najawicz and Amos Carty Jr. are all former Schneider Hospital executives who faced charges of embezzlement in Superior Court. Miller alone was alleged to have received more than $2 million between August 2005 and November 2007. He was chief executive officer of Schneider Hospital from 2002 to 2007. A six-week long trial of the executives ended in a mistrial on June 24, 2011, and a retrial has been scheduled for October.

The federal indictment against Miller for filing a false tax return is a separate case, and he is accused of not reporting some of his income for two years. Those two years overlap with the time frame in which he was accused of embezzling money from Schneider Hospital.

The first count of the false tax return indictment claims that Miller filed a 2006 Form 1040 individual income tax return with the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau that he knew was materially false and fraudulent. The return reported total income of $265,198, "whereas he then and there knew and believed that his true total income was substantially more than the amount reported," according to the indictment.

The second count of the indictment claims that Miller again under-reported his total income for 2007, reporting $255,589 when it was substantially more.

Miller has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

In court Wednesday, Villegas argued that the defense has not had time to pore over the records from the criminal case against Miller in Superior Court.

Also, U.S. Attorney Kim Chisholm recently had turned over 6,875 pages of discovery documents to the defense. Those documents and the summary of the tax expert Chisholm intended to use as a witness would have to be reviewed by a forensic accountant hired by the defense, Villegas said.

In his motion, Villegas asked the judge to designate the case a complex matter and to set a new trial date in September.

"The defense is required to calculate every single deposit for the two respective years to determine the accuracy of the Government's calculation for the total income of the defendant," the motion states.

Villegas wrote that he had not had sufficient time, nor would he have sufficient time if a trial were to happen in June, to review information from the Superior Court case against Miller.

There are "multiple witnesses in the Superior Court matter who have not yet been identified or interviewed who are likely to be witnesses in this criminal matter," the motion states.

Villegas cited limited funds and understaffing of the Federal Public Defender's office in his motion and arguments before Gomez.

"Attorney understaffing in the District of the Virgin Islands has created severe challenges in maintaining caseloads and daily office operations. Specifically, there is one Assistant Federal Public Defender handling all cases between the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix," the motion states.

Gomez said he would extend the trial dates from June 17 to mid to late July and asked that Villegas have Miller sign a waiver of his right to a speedy trial.

Chisholm said Wednesday that a tax expert is preparing a summary of the 6,875 pages of documents pertaining to the case, and that the expert will need another two weeks to complete her findings.

Earlier this month, Miller's wife, Ronica Miller, was declared a fugitive from justice after the V.I. Attorney General's Office charged her with 10 counts of being an accessory after the fact, according to court documents.

She is accused of withdrawing a total of $421,900 from a bank account that was frozen by court order in connection with one of the criminal cases against Rodney Miller.

After authorities in South Carolina were unable to find her at her residence there, a warrant for Ronica Miller's arrest was entered into the National Crime Information Center, a database for tracking crime-related information that is used by law enforcement agencies across the country.

- Contact reporter Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email anorris@dailynews.vi.

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