St. Croix woman charged with embezzlement on trial this week


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ST. CROIX - Opening statements are expected to begin today in the V.I. Superior Court trial of Sylvia Thomas, who is charged with embezzlement and related charges dating back almost nine years.

Thomas, a former employee of Inter-Ocean Insurance Co., was arrested in August 2007, and charged with 17 counts of embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses, forgery and making fraudulent claims upon the government.

She has pleaded not guilty.

Thomas maintains her innocence seven years later and the speedy jury trial she requested at the time of her arraignment in 2007 is finally being heard before V.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy.

The jury was selected just before 1 p.m. Monday and given their preliminary jury instructions, which outlined the nature of the case and how the trial will proceed during the next few days.

Molloy recessed court for the day about 3 p.m., and when jurors return to the courtroom today they will hear statements from each of the attorneys - Assistant Attorney General Esther Walters for the prosecution and attorney Martial Webster, who is representing Thomas. The charges stem from a police investigation that took place between September 2005 and June 2006.

According to court documents, 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 a husband that did not exist and gave false documentation to the Motor Vehicle Bureau indicating that she and her husband had coverage on their vehicles.

Thomas collected $3,016 from five clients and kept the money, court papers say.

The company launched an investigation after one of Thomas' clients called to cancel an insurance policy that the company discovered did not exist. Thomas was terminated and police were notified, according to documents.

Thomas claimed at the time of her arrest that she did not do anything that she was not authorized to do, according to the police report.

She remains free on $50,000 bail, pending the outcome of the trial.

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

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