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DPNR Official, Two Others, Charged in Bribery and Fraud Scheme

June 21, 2006 – Three men have been charged with conspiracy in an elaborate scheme to defraud the V.I. government of $1.4 million.
Hollis L. Griffin, director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; Earl E. Brewley, a former V.I. Fire Services employee; and Esmond J. Modeste, the purported project manager of Elite Technical Services, a fictitious company, have all been formally charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and structuring, a federal offense similar to money laundering.
Court documents reveal that in early 2000 Griffin, Brewley, Modeste and others formed Elite. They then used the company, and other companies, to secure "at least seven government contracts valued at approximately $1.4 million," a release from U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins said.
Though almost no work was performed under the contracts awarded by DPNR and Property and Procurement, $1.1 million was paid to Elite and the other companies.
Once the money was paid to Elite, Brewley, Modeste and others allegedly paid bribes and kickbacks totaling between $300,000 and $350,000 to at least four government officials, including Griffin, according to the information filed in the case. The other three are referred to only as Government Officials A, B and C.
Then, in order to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports (which are required by federal law when cash is withdrawn or deposited in amounts of $10,000 or greater) the charging documents say a series of cash withdrawals – in increments ranging from $3,600 to $9,900 – totaling $350,000 were made by Brewley, Modeste and others from accounts at FirstBank, Wachovia and Banco Popular, where the contract money was deposited.
"The government charges that these cash withdrawals were made in order to pay the bribes and kickbacks in cash while avoiding the filing of currency transaction reports by the local banks," the release sent Wednesday afternoon said.
This activity resulted in the structuring charge. (According to Title 31, Section 5324 of the U.S. Code, it is illegal to structure a "transaction to avoid triggering an otherwise applicable reporting requirement.")
It is also alleged that documents and checks related to the conspiracy were delivered by U.S. Mail and Federal Express.
The case remains under investigation by a joint task force, which includes the FBI, U.S. Treasury Department/Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the V.I. Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of the Inspector General.
The case is being jointly prosecuted by Armando O. Borilla of the U.S. Justice Department Criminal Division and Major R. Coleman, executive U.S. attorney, V.I. District.
Griffin, Brewley and Modeste face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and $1.4 million in forfeiture.
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