Nov. 6, 2003 – The U.S. Attorney's Office announced federal grand jury indictments of four individuals on Thursday, three on counts alleging fraud in the aftermath of Hurricanes Bertha and Georges, and one accused of harboring illegal aliens. All were handed up in District Court on St. Thomas.
Todd Hunter, Brian Niles and Brian Postle were indicted on nine counts alleging mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
According to a release issued by U.S. Attorney David Nissman on Thursday afternoon, the indictment alleges that the three conspired to defraud the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and insurance companies. The charges relate to some $135,000 in damages claimed as a result of Hurricane Bertha in 1996 and Hurricane Georges in 1998, the release stated.
The indictments followed an investigation conducted jointly by the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the SBA, Nissman said.
The maximum penalty for mail fraud is incarceration for 30 days and a fine of $1 million or double the amount of the gains realized fraudulently or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim of the crime.
"When businesses get victimized by fraud," Nissman said, "they feel that no one is doing anything to stop the fraud, and as a result [fewer businesses] enter the community." He added: "We all suffer when federal programs are undermined by fraud. Today's indictment should send a clear message that we intend to stop these types of fraudulent practices."
In a separate indictment, Herbert Lockhart was charged with two counts of harboring illegal aliens and making false statements.
The first count, according to another release from Nissman's office, accuses Lockhart of harboring one alien and shielding the individual from detection on St. Thomas until least last March. The second count alleges that on or about March 14, he made false statements to federal agents "concerning the existence of illegal aliens who occupied rental units on property that he managed."
The investigation that resulted in the indictment was carried out by the Homeland Security Department and its Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the release said.
The maximum penalty for harboring illegal aliens is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for making false statements is the same.
Nissman said in the release that the charges against Lockhart "are federal violations that are of national importance to homeland security which will be vigorously enforced in this district."
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