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Accused Embezzler Faces New Conspiracy Charges

June 6, 2007 — Former government aide Alric V. Simmonds, still awaiting trial on 94 counts of conversion, embezzlement and grand larceny, found himself back in V.I. Superior Court on Wednesday morning after being arrested the day before on a new set of charges — this time including conspiracy.
According to a representative from the V.I. Inspector General's Office, Simmonds allegedly conspired with another individual to siphon off $230,610 worth of government funds he deposited into a bank account set up for the Bureau of Economic Research (BER).
Simmonds was a signatory on the Banco Popular account, which was intended to hold federal funds awarded to BER for the proposed universal health-care program. In April, Simmonds was also charged with funneling another $900,000 through the account, and allegedly using the money for his own personal use. (See "Bail Set for Former Turnbull Aide Accused of Embezzling Nearly $1 Million.")
The previous charges are based on a series of checks Simmond's wrote from the bureau's account made payable to himself or to cash. The additional charges, however, allege that Simmonds conspired with another individual to embezzle government funds.
During Wednesday's hearing, Special Agent Nicholas Peru explained that Simmonds wrote 41 checks from the BER account to an individual identified only as "Val." The checks were not accompanied by an invoice or other supporting documentation, Peru said, but the check stubs show brief descriptive memos indicating that funds were used for such things as cleaning services, hauling, disposal and removal of debris.
As deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Simmonds had access to several government accounts and was responsible for signing off on various payment documents, such as checks or miscellaneous disbursement vouchers. According to Peru, however, such payments should also be accompanied by an invoice or receipt that can be sent to the Department of Finance and used to replenish the account when funds are used.
Peru also explained that over the course of a nine-month investigation, agents within the Inspector General's Office were concerned about the number of checks Simmonds wrote to "Val."
"We became suspicious after noticing the frequency of the checks written to this person," he explained to V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda J. Hollar. "The checks were sometimes one or two a day."
Simmonds' defense attorney, Julie Todmann, posed questions about the person to whom the checks were written. But Peru dismissed her questions, saying that any payments made to vendors working at Government House would have been accompanied by an invoice or copy of a contract. "In this case, there was none of that information included," he said.
Concerned about the fact that some of the new charges are similar to the ones levied against Simmonds in early April, Hollar questioned both prosecuting and defense attorneys about the identity of Simmonds' co-conspirator. While the name was not revealed publicly during the hearing, it was given to Hollar by prosecuting attorney Claude Walker during a 15-minute sidebar conference.
Walker requested that the identity of the individual be kept under seal until the Inspector General's Office completes its investigation.
Once made aware of "Val's" identity, Hollar said she found probable cause to hold the charges against Simmonds, and set bail at $100,000. The judge said she was concerned that Simmonds, who may have access to an increased amount of money, could pose a flight risk.
Since Simmonds will be going to trial on the first set of charges in mid-July, bail is needed to ensure his appearance during the upcoming hearings, Hollar said.
Simmonds looked surprised when Hollar announced the bail amount, with eyebrows raised and hands clenching the desk in front of him. However, he kept his voice low while Hollar advised him of his rights, and he kept his head down while he left the courtroom.
Simmonds will be arraigned at 9 a.m. June 14.
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