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Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCharlemagnes Plead Not Guilty to Federal Charges, Request Speedy Trial

Charlemagnes Plead Not Guilty to Federal Charges, Request Speedy Trial

Charlemagnes enter not guilty plea in District Court Friday. (Source file photo)

The silence was almost deafening in the District Court of the Virgin Islands courtroom on St. Croix on Thursday morning. Faintly in the background, you could hear soft whispers between David Charlemagne, 50, and his wife, Sasha Charlemagne, 44, waiting for their arraignment to begin.

Attorney David Cattie entered a plea of not guilty and requested a speedy trial on behalf of his client, David Charlemagne. Renee Dowling also requested a not-guilty plea and speedy trial on behalf of Sasha Charlemagne’s attorney, Pamela Colon.

Originally, Sasha Charlemagne’s arraignment was scheduled for 2 p.m. but was canceled due to a scheduling error.

The defendants are facing charges for exploiting hurricane recovery efforts in a $4 million fraud scheme. The indictment, unveiled by U.S. Attorney Delia Smith, charged the Charlemagnes with government program fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Emile A. Henderson III, who oversaw the arraignment, accepted the pleas and granted the requests for speedy trials. A calendar call is scheduled for July 12, a pretrial conference is scheduled for July 15, a motion of hearing is scheduled for July 24, and the trial is scheduled for Aug. 5, where both defendants will appear before Judge Wilma Lewis.

The third defendant charged in this case is former Housing Finance Authority Chief Operating Officer Darin Richards. Currently, all three key figures are released on $100,000 unsecured bonds.

According to court documents, the charges stem from a two-year investigation involving a VIHFA contract for storage and management of wood that was shipped to the territory to be used for the reconstruction of commercial and residential buildings following hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

After both hurricanes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency mobilized resources, including a large consignment of wood, to rebuild public and private infrastructure in the Virgin Islands. As part of those efforts, VIHFA received funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program to pay for the storage and management of the wood. Initially, VIHFA stored the St. Croix consignment of wood at Sunshine Mall in Frederiksted, St. Croix.

However, in 2020, the owner of Sunshine Mall requested that the government of the Virgin Islands remove the St. Croix woodpile from his commercial property. The VIHFA subsequently issued a public request for proposals to manage distribution of the woodpiles, and the contract was awarded to St. Croix company ISG, with Davidson Charlemagne’s company, D&S Trucking listed as the subcontractor, according to the indictment.

The ISG bid proposed to store and manage the St. Croix woodpile, as well as the St. Thomas woodpile, for $2,993,500 over a three-year period and was subsequently increased three times by VIHFA, reaching a sum of $4,423,544.50 in October 2021, it says. The contract was further extended in January 2024 for an additional three-year term “with payments averaging over $120,000 per month in federal funds from VIHFA continuing to flow into bank accounts owned and controlled” by the Charlemagnes.

“In his submissions, [Davidson] Charlemagne failed to disclose to VIHFA and HUD that he was employed as Director of Maintenance for VIDE, and he further failed to disclose the fact he would be obtaining rent-free warehouse space at the Henderson Elementary School, a property owned by VIDE,” the indictment states.

“In essense, ISG’s bid, prepared by Charlemagne, proposed that D&S Trucking, a company owned by Charlemagne, would collect vastly inflated fees from one agency of the Virgin Islands Government (VIHFA) to store and manage the St. Croix woodpile rent-free on public property owned by another agency of the Virgin Islands Government (VIDE), where Charlemagne” was employed, it said.

Despite this, the woodpiles on St. Croix and St. Thomas remain almost entirely unused and stacked on pallets outdoors and exposed to the elements for more than three years, according to the indictment.

“Meanwhile homes across the territory remain in need of repairs from damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria which occurred in September 2017,” it said.

To read more about the charges, click here.

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