Woman hired to key post in Office of Tax Assessor despite fraud conviction
Published: August 18, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Lieutenant Governor's Office is refusing to explain how the third-highest-ranking official in the Office of the Tax Assessor was hired in 2008 subsequent to a wire fraud conviction.
Prior to gaining her post as assistant tax assessor, Monika Broughton engineered a fraudulent car loan in November 1999 using the driver's license and Social Security number of an acquaintance named Allison Phaire, according to federal court records. Broughton used Phaire's information to take out a $14,683 car loan from First North American Credit and used the proceeds to buy a 1987 four-door Honda Civic in Norcross, Ga.
A conviction for wire fraud resulted in a sentence of five years probation in 2004.
Within the five-year span of Broughton's probation sentence, on May 12, 2008, Broughton was hired as a special assistant to the tax assessor, according to Shawna Richards, a spokeswoman for the Lieutenant Governor's Office, which oversees the Office of the Tax Assessor.
In her office Friday afternoon, Broughton refused to answer questions about the case.
"What's so special about me?" she asked.
She also said she found it "quite strange" that a reporter was asking about the case.
"It's something, if I remember the dates, that seems to be quite some time ago," Broughton said.
Broughton would not say whether she disclosed the guilty plea to the V.I. government prior to being hired. When asked whether the case should be cause for concern for taxpayers, she said, "You're going to the wrong individual."
According to the V.I. Code, the lieutenant governor is responsible for all property tax assessments in the territory. The position of tax assessor has been vacant since 2010, and currently only the chief operating officer and assistant tax assessor on St. Croix rank higher than Broughton, she said.
When asked whether the Lt. Governor's Office was aware of Broughton's plea or whether it was cause for concern, Richards refused to comment. She said all hiring is handled through the V.I. Personnel Division and referred specific questions about the hiring process to Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr., who could not be reached for comment.
Personnel rules and regulations posted on the Personnel Division's website do not make any reference to how a conviction impacts a person's employability with respect to the government aside from stating that anyone convicted of child abuse cannot hold a position overseeing children.
A sample application last revised in December 2008 does include a question asking applicants to disclose any felony or first-degree misdemeanor convictions.
According to a May 1, 2003, affidavit, Phaire never authorized the use of her information or the purchase of a vehicle in her name.
"Based on the forgoing, there is probable cause to believe that Monika Broughton did knowingly execute and attempt to execute a scheme and artifice to defraud a financial institution and to obtain money, funds, credits and other property under the custody and control of a financial institution by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises," the affidavit states.
A warrant was issued for Broughton's arrest the day the affidavit was filed, and she was arrested May 5, 2003, at the St. Thomas airport, according to court records.
Broughton also used the First North American Credit loan to obtain a credit card, an apartment and furniture, according to testimony from the federal Justice Department case agent. Broughton defaulted on all of the items, and Phaire became aware of it "when it started coming up on her credit report."
The case agent also said Broughton was able to fraudulently obtain power of attorney for herself using Phaire's information by convincing an acquaintance who was a notary in Nisky Center to do it "as a favor to her." The notary was not charged in connection with the case, according to the case agent's testimony.
A federal grand jury indicted Broughton for bank fraud on June 5, 2003, and Broughton's attorney responded by seeking dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, according to court records. A superseding indictment came down on Sept. 4, 2003, charging Broughton with wire fraud because the bank loan Broughton fraudulently obtained involved wire transactions in Georgia, Virginia and Florida.
Wire fraud carries penalties of unspecified fines and a jail sentence of up to 20 years, according to federal law.
Broughton, who is now 41, pleaded guilty to the wire fraud charge on Oct. 6, 2003, according to court records. She was sentenced on March 11, 2004, to five years of probation and ordered to repay $2,436 in actual damages to the bank. The amount was argued down from an original amount of $7,087 because Broughton made 16 payments on the car loan.
Broughton's lawyer also filed a motion to reduce her probation time to three years, but a judge never ruled on the motion, according to court records.
A subsequent pleading in the case mentions a 2002 warrant issued for Broughton's arrest stemming from a civil complaint accusing her of purchasing a computer valued at $1,589 with the credit card of her employer, Kumon North America, and keeping the computer for her own personal use. The case was dismissed and closed in December 2003.
Broughton repaid the $2,436 owed to the bank in March 2009, court records show. The release of lien in the case is on file at the V.I. Recorder of Deeds, just down the hall from where Broughton now works.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.