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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesICC VP CHARGED WITH TRYING TO BRIBE A SENATOR

ICC VP CHARGED WITH TRYING TO BRIBE A SENATOR

Former V.I. Sen. John Tutein, a vice president in St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser's Innovative Communication Corp., was arrested Friday on federal bribery charges, apparently in connection with the failed Prosser-V.I. government swap of land for tax breaks on St. Croix.
According to U.S. Attorney James Hurd, Tutein, 41, was arrested on a District Court warrant for allegedly offering a bribe to an unnamed Virgin Islands senator in exchange for the senator's support of legislation favoring ICC.
On May 21, during Senate deliberations on the proposed ICC-government deal, Sen. Allie Allison Petrus accused Tutein of having offered him an envelope full of $100 bills last October in exchange for support on an upcoming issue. Tutein denied the accusations.
At the same Senate hearing, Petrus stated his belief that other senators had also been offered, and had accepted, bribes. Petrus couldn't be reached for comment Friday evening.
Despite Petrus' statements on the Senate floor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe said the affidavit in support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's bribery complaint against Tutein doesn't identify the senator in question.
James Weber, the FBI's special agent in charge, couldn't be reached Friday to ask whether any senators are being investigated for allegedly having accepted bribes.
The complaint against Tutein charges that between last Oct. 1 and Feb. 5, he offered a bribe to a V.I. senator "in connection with the business, transaction, and series of transactions of the Virgin Islands government."
The ICC-government land transaction would have involved Prosser's company purchasing about 2,800 acres of land on St. Croix's northwest shore for under $30 million. Prosser would have turned over to the V.I. government 1,000 acres of improved, subdivided land, which would have been given to government workers in lieu of some $200 million they are owed in retroactive wages.
He would have also given the government nearly $10 million for public projects to be built on all of the territory's islands.
In return, Prosser would have received full tax breaks for 10 of his companies for 30 years, a deal valued by various sources at anywhere from $180 million to $3.5 billion.
The controversial proposal was considered by Gov. Charles Turnbull, then pulled by Prosser after intense criticism in the community. However, the deal was revived in the Senate and approved 8-7. Petrus made his accusations during consideration of the bill, which Turnbull eventually vetoed.
Neither Tutein nor ICC spokesman Edwin Crouch could be reached for comment Friday evening, and Prosser was said to be out of the territory.
Mabe said the District Court has jurisdiction because the V.I. government receives more than $10,000 in federal funds annually.
"That's the nexus for this being a federal offense," he said.
The maximum penalty for bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Tutein had his initial court appearance Friday and was released by Magistrate Judge Geoffrey Barnard on $10,000 bail. Mabe said a preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 1 in District Court on St. Thomas.

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Former V.I. Sen. John Tutein, a vice president in St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser's Innovative Communication Corp., was arrested Friday on federal bribery charges, apparently in connection with the failed Prosser-V.I. government swap of land for tax breaks on St. Croix.
According to U.S. Attorney James Hurd, Tutein, 41, was arrested on a District Court warrant for allegedly offering a bribe to an unnamed Virgin Islands senator in exchange for the senator's support of legislation favoring ICC.
On May 21, during Senate deliberations on the proposed ICC-government deal, Sen. Allie Allison Petrus accused Tutein of having offered him an envelope full of $100 bills last October in exchange for support on an upcoming issue. Tutein denied the accusations.
At the same Senate hearing, Petrus stated his belief that other senators had also been offered, and had accepted, bribes. Petrus couldn't be reached for comment Friday evening.
Despite Petrus' statements on the Senate floor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe said the affidavit in support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's bribery complaint against Tutein doesn't identify the senator in question.
James Weber, the FBI's special agent in charge, couldn't be reached Friday to ask whether any senators are being investigated for allegedly having accepted bribes.
The complaint against Tutein charges that between last Oct. 1 and Feb. 5, he offered a bribe to a V.I. senator "in connection with the business, transaction, and series of transactions of the Virgin Islands government."
The ICC-government land transaction would have involved Prosser's company purchasing about 2,800 acres of land on St. Croix's northwest shore for under $30 million. Prosser would have turned over to the V.I. government 1,000 acres of improved, subdivided land, which would have been given to government workers in lieu of some $200 million they are owed in retroactive wages.
He would have also given the government nearly $10 million for public projects to be built on all of the territory's islands.
In return, Prosser would have received full tax breaks for 10 of his companies for 30 years, a deal valued by various sources at anywhere from $180 million to $3.5 billion.
The controversial proposal was considered by Gov. Charles Turnbull, then pulled by Prosser after intense criticism in the community. However, the deal was revived in the Senate and approved 8-7. Petrus made his accusations during consideration of the bill, which Turnbull eventually vetoed.
Neither Tutein nor ICC spokesman Edwin Crouch could be reached for comment Friday evening, and Prosser was said to be out of the territory.
Mabe said the District Court has jurisdiction because the V.I. government receives more than $10,000 in federal funds annually.
"That's the nexus for this being a federal offense," he said.
The maximum penalty for bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Tutein had his initial court appearance Friday and was released by Magistrate Judge Geoffrey Barnard on $10,000 bail. Mabe said a preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 1 in District Court on St. Thomas.