The road to Williams' indictment
Published: December 15, 2012
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Smalls left the area in his own vehicle and, shortly thereafter, contacted federal law enforcement authorities to report the incident, according to the affidavit.
From there, the FBI broadened its probe into what last month became a nine-count grand jury indictment charging Williams and others with racketeering, bribery, obtaining money by false pretenses, making false claims upon the government and embezzlement.
Federal authorities believe that just before the meeting with Smalls, Williams and his father made a trip to the bank. There, the men withdrew $24,000 in cash from a bank account belonging to Ace Development, a company owned and operated by Williams and his father since at least 1983, according to the affidavit.
The withdrawal came the day after the company's bank account cleared a $134,000 check from the Public Works Department, according to the affidavit. That payment was made for work Ace did cleaning out water guts in the Bovoni area between July and September 2009.
Smalls and his staff had awarded the job to Williams' company in preparation for hurricane season, according to the affidavit.
"Your Affiant is informed that, during hurricane season, there are projects that can be awarded without a formal bid package being submitted by contractors," Maag wrote. "The Bovoni gut cleaning was such a project."
About a month after the sealed-envelope exchange, on Oct. 9, 2009, Smalls agreed to make a phone call to Williams under the direction of federal law enforcement agents.
In the recorded conversation, Smalls and Williams discussed bond money for road projects. According to Smalls' interpretation of the conversation provided to law enforcement, Williams was asking Smalls to steer some of the projects to Ace Development.
"Smalls realized that Williams wanted Smalls to hire Ace again, but knew that Ace did not do road projects," Maag wrote.
Smalls insisted to Williams that the bond money was designated for very specific purposes to insure that no money would be misappropriated.
Williams stressed that $2 million had been set aside for "drainage clearing," which would allow Smalls to hire Ace to clean more guts.
Smalls said he thought the language in the bond bill was more vague than that, but Williams indicated that he had been involved in making sure the bond bill was worded in a way that was beneficial to Ace.
"Williams made sure that he used the right language to insure that Smalls would be able to give Ace at least part of the bond money," the affidavit states. "In this regard, Williams said to Smalls, 'The word installation, the word installation, the word installation was never attached when we pass it, we pass it, it's clean I made sure of that.'"
The bond bill in question designated $2.5 million for "Local Road & Drainage Improvement" in Smith Bay and on Nazareth Road and Fortuna Road in the St. Thomas-St. John District, and $2.5 million for "Local Road & Drainage Improvement to include East Concordia Road" on St. Croix. It was debated on the Senate floor on July 9, 2009, and signed into law July 18.
Smalls began to understand what Williams had said and done, and told the senator he would have to go back and review the bill to make sure he was allowed to spend the money clearing guts, according to the affidavit.
"Williams agreed and further tried to assure and influence Smalls by saying that Senate President Louis Hill assisted Williams by making sure the language used allowed Smalls to hire Ace," Maag wrote.
Smalls said he would look into it.
"Das right, no no of course, of course you need to check into it, me and de man (unintelligible), personally an Hill we made sure of that," Williams said, according to a transcript in the affidavit.
Smalls recorded another phone conversation the following month, on Nov. 10, 2009, according to the affidavit. Again Smalls interpreted the conversation for law enforcement and told officers that Williams continued to pressure him to hire Ace to clear guts with the bond money.
During their phone conversation, Smalls said he needed to get a legal opinion on whether the bond money could be used for that purpose.
Williams responded by saying, "It ain't gonna be no problem because even the, that's where somewhere Louis and dem guys had structure it da way. You know?"
The FBI affidavit also alleges that Williams has been enrolled at the University of Phoenix since 2007 but has done little coursework himself.
"From sometime in the year 2007 until present, Williams has had certain staff members do online university course work for him and in his name, in order to satisfy academic requirements toward various online degrees offered by Phoenix as if such work had been done by Williams," the affidavit states.
The work generally consisted of writing papers and taking tests, often by using the V.I. Legislature's computer network, including computers in Williams' office connected the Legislature's server, according to the affidavit.
Maag's affidavit relies on four confidential sources to detail the following about Williams' online degree pursuit:
About July 2008, a former staffer of Williams' named Abdul Liburd approached one of the sources and told him that Liburd had been assigned to do Phoenix work for Williams, including "a business power point presentation." Records obtained from the university pursuant to a federal grand jury subpoena revealed Williams had submitted a presentation that was "nearly identical" to the one done by Liburd.
Liburd told at least two of the confidential sources, identified in the affidavit as "CS" followed by a number, that he was having qualms about doing Williams' homework for him.
"Liburd approached CS-3 during Liburd's employment with Williams and confided in CS-3 that Liburd was experiencing a moral dilemma," Maag wrote. "Liburd informed CS-3 that he had been performing academic assignments for Williams in order for Williams to obtain college credit from Phoenix. CS-3 advised Liburd to make a decision he could live with. According to CS-3, Liburd ended up quitting his job as a member of Williams' legislative staff and thereafter moved to Asia to each English."
Maag located Liburd in Korea and managed to speak with him briefly by telephone to try to set up an investigative interview before losing contact with Liburd. He later found Liburd in Indonesia, and Liburd told the agent that, at Williams' direction, "Liburd did most of the academic work for Williams' online degree with Phoenix."
In October 2011, Liburd emailed Maag approximately 20 Phoenix academic assignments that Liburd said he did for Williams and uploaded to Phoenix. At least two of those had been matched with documents obtained from Phoenix at the time the affidavit was written.
'Leaving the country'
By February 2008, Liburd quit working for Williams. Before he left for Asia, Liburd "did the transition" for Kim Blackett to replace him "by showing Blackett how to do the Phoenix work for Williams."
A confidential source told Maag that Blackett kept a thumb drive on her person that contained the fraudulent assignments and stored hard copies of at least some of these assignments in a large, black three-ring binder with no external markings. The binder was stored in Williams' legislative office.
Maag also discovered that Blackett was a member of the V.I. National Guard and was called to duty overseas in the middle of 2010 for a month of training. She left about June 5, 2010, and returned about June 26, 2010, according to the affidavit.
Blackett's departure conflicted with Williams' school schedule, so she sent email to the University of Phoenix pretending to be Williams and representing that he was the one who had the military obligation, according to Maag.
On May 31, 2010, she wrote an email - which signs off with "Thank you, Alvin" - to one of Williams' professors telling the professor that Williams would be "leaving the country on Friday with the military to go to Europe" for his unit's annual training.
Blackett asked to get access to a final exam earlier than scheduled because of the military training.
"I am asking in advance because, I am unsure that I will have internet connection at the base, and I don't want to take any chances with not getting it done on time," Blackett wrote.
Maag identified a later email, dated Aug. 10, 2010, that he believed was connected to the first email. The August email, which contains the same sign-off as the May email, complains at length about how much money "Williams" spent in Europe "due to the depreciation of the U.S. dollar."
"I do not believe that Williams wrote either of the emails, because the investigation has revealed that Williams has never been a member of the Virgin Islands National Guard," Maag wrote.
Furthermore, travel databases showed no indication that Williams traveled to Europe during this period, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit contains only a few references to Garry Sprauve, a senior advisor to Williams who is named as a co-defendant with Williams, Blackett and Ace Development.
One of the confidential sources told the FBI that Williams inflated Sprauve's salary, only to deduct the inflated amount and provide it to a non-legislative employee named Brandon Richardson. The affidavit provides no information on the connection between Richardson and the rest of the parties in the case.
As of Friday night, Richardson had not been charged with any crime in this case. Nor had Hill or Liburd.
The affidavit referenced above was submitted in support of a search warrant for Williams' legislative office; the Legislature's computer server room and server; all of the computers in Williams' office; and the person, bags and thumb drives of Blackett.
When he wrote the affidavit, Maag stated there was probable cause to believe Williams, Blackett and "possibly others" had been involved in bribery, racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. The latter two of these charges were not part of the grand jury indictment.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller approved the search warrant application on Oct. 4, 2011; the FBI raided the Legislature the following day.
The affidavit was unsealed Wednesday.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.A Nov. 8 federal grand jury indictment charged V.I. Sen. Alvin Williams Jr. and others with these crimes:
- Racketeering in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.
- Federal program bribery by Williams and a company to which he is connected, Ace Development.
- Virgin Islands bribery by Williams and Ace Development.
- Virgin Islands conflict of interest related to bribery by Williams and Ace Development.
- Virgin Islands bribery by Williams.
- Virgin Islands conspiracy related to fraudulent claims upon the government by Williams and his senior advisor, Garry Sprauve.
- Virgin Islands obtaining money by false pretenses by Williams and Sprauve.
- Virgin Islands embezzlement and falsification of a public account by Williams and Sprauve.
- Virgin Islands obtaining money by false pretenses related to an online university degree by Williams and his chief of staff, Kim Blackett. Democrat
Senator, St. Thomas-St. John District.
27th, 28th and 29th Legislatures.
Committees: Chairman of Planning and Environment Protection; vice-chairman of Government Operations; member of Rules and Judiciary, Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs, Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice; liaison to the U.S. Congress.
Education: 1996 graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School. Claims to have earned an AA online degree from University of Phoenix, but the federal indictment puts that in question.
Community positions: Former president of St. Thomas-St. John Horse Owners Association.
Prior employment: Owner of Ace Development Inc. and general manager of Alvin Williams Trucking and Heavy Equipment Rental, which his Legislature website says has been "contracted by the federal and local governments to provide major development services in the territory."
Alvin Williams Jr.'s Senate staff
Kim Blackett, chief of staff.
Garry Sprauve, senior advisor.
Rasheen St. Juste, constituent officer.
Phillip Harrigan, public relations officer-committee coordinator.
Jonee' Edwards, administrative assistant, legislative aide.
Sources: V.I. Legislature website, www.legvi.org; Williams' responses to Daily News 2006 Voter Guide questionnaire. ST. THOMAS - Sen. Louis Hill, the president of the 28th Legislature, was mentioned in at least two recorded phone conversations that helped form the basis of a federal search warrant affidavit connected to the corruption case against Sen. Alvin Williams Jr.
In both instances, Williams told V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls that Hill had helped craft language in an $87 million bond bill that would allow part of the money to be used to hire Ace Development, a company connected to Williams and his father, to clean drainage guts before the 2009 hurricane season, according to the affidavit.
In the first conversation, Smalls told Williams he was unsure whether the bond bill would allow this type of work, and Williams insisted it did.
Williams: The word installation, the word installation, the word installation was never attached when we pass it. We pass it. It's clean. I made sure of that.
Smalls: Okay, if you made sure dey put cleaning in it, I need to go at it again.
Williams: Das right. No, no, of course, of course you need to check into it. Me and de man (unintelligible), personally an Hill we made sure of that.
Smalls: Okay, alright.
Williams: (unintelligible) Personally we made sure of that, so everything's (unintelligible) good basically then.
The bond bill in question designated $2.5 million for "Local Road & Drainage Improvement" in Smith Bay, Nazareth Road and Fortuna Road in the St. Thomas-St. John District, and $2.5 million for "Local Road & Drainage Improvement to include East Concordia Road" on St. Croix. It was debated on the Senate floor on July 9, 2009, and signed into law July 18.
In a subsequent conversation, Smalls told Williams he was seeking legal clarification on the issue, according to the affidavit.
Smalls: Ya, um, I working with the bond counsel to get a legal interpretation as to whether or not I can actually use it for, for clearing. You know.
Williams: Well, well, well, well you know, um, I, I, I, you know I hear what you sayin. At the end of the day it ain't gonna be no problem because even the, that's where somewhere Louis and dem guys had structure it da way. You know?
In discussions with the FBI, Smalls interpreted both conversations for the law enforcement agents and told them that both references were to Hill, according to the affidavit.
Hill could not be reached for comment Friday. He did not run for re-election to the 30th Legislature. ST. THOMAS - The same day that the FBI raided the V.I. Legislature as part of a corruption probe of Sen. Alvin Williams Jr., federal agents obtained a separate search warrant for the Sapphire Village residence of Williams' chief of staff, Kim Blackett, after Franke Hoheb, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Celestino White Sr., intervened.
Blackett initially cooperated with the FBI's search, providing two thumb drives to agents upon request, according to a search warrant affidavit filed on Oct. 5, 2011, and unsealed this week.
When an agent asked Blackett whether she owned a laptop, she said her laptop was at home, but she agreed to allow the FBI to see it.
Blackett then told the agent that "a friend" and fellow legislative employee - Hoheb, who ran for a Senate seat during the 2012 election - "had her residence key."
Blackett went to get Hoheb and they both agreed to take the agent to Hoheb's house to obtain Blackett's key.
But Blackett and Hoheb left before the agent could follow them, according to the affidavit.
The agent went to Hoheb's residence, but neither Hoheb nor Blackett were there. The agent then went to Blackett's residence and called her. Blackett told the agent she was on her way there.
Seconds later, Hoheb called the agent and "stated that he and Blackett needed to see 'paper' and stated 'We're here,'" the affidavit states.
The agent replied, "We're here," and Hoheb "then responded surprisingly, 'Where?'"
"Hoheb and Blackett then exited a vehicle that was already in the parking lot" and told agent Jackson Purkey that "he and Blackett had spoken with an attorney," the affidavit states.
"Hoheb stated that agents would need a search warrant for Blackett's home and laptop before agents could take the laptop," the affidavit reads. "Hoheb stated, however, that the fact that Blackett was requesting that agents secure a search warrant didn't mean that Blackett didn't want to cooperate with authorities. Blackett and Hoheb got in their vehicles and left the area."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller approved the search warrant the same day.