A St. Thomas contractor was accused of defrauding storm-stricken homeowners without providing service entered a not guilty plea at an arraignment hearing held Friday in Superior Court. The defendant was returned to the Virgin Islands from Florida at the end of a three-year search by law enforcement.
Defendant Jeffrey John Magras has been detained at the Criminal Justice Complex since his extradition in early June. Superior Court Magistrate Paula Norkadis did not set a trial date by the hearing’s end but ordered his lawyers and prosecutors to finalize discovery matters by Sept. 25.
Magras was released on a $5,000 bond at the end of Friday’s arraignment hearing. On June 5, he signed a waiver saying he would stay in the Virgin Islands to face charges of obtaining money under false pretense and grand larceny.
Police interviews with one complainant and documents filed by another with Licensing and Consumer Affairs led to allegations that Magras collected more than $22,200 but never provided the needed repairs. One customer told authorities they were expecting kitchen cabinets; the second wanted the defendant to fix storm-damaged windows and doors.
The materials customers paid Magras to purchase never arrived, homeowners said. After a criminal charging document was filed with the court on July 29, 2020, then-Superior Court Magistrate Henry Carr III signed an arrest warrant for Magras, who by then had moved to Florida.
Court documents said it took almost three years to find him, although Assistant Attorney Brenda Scales said Magras knew he was being sought.
“He absconded,” said Magistrate Simone Van Holten-Turnbull at a June 5 hearing held after Magras’ arrest and return to the V.I. Defense attorney Peter Lynch told the court his client was seriously ill and left to seek medical treatment. The lawyer asked for an emergency release.
Lynch added that the arrest warrant served on Magras was defective because it did not have a charging document attached. Scales opposed the motion for an emergency release, saying that the rule cited by Lynch allowed for the warrant to be served without a charging document.
Now, having entered a plea and being freed on pretrial release, the defendant must comply with the orders set during his June 5 initial hearing. One of those conditions directs him to apply for work in the Virgin Islands and maintain a work schedule until he goes to trial.