Aug. 24, 2004 – After opening arguments were delivered Tuesday morning in District Court on St. Thomas, the prosecution presented its case in the trial of former Deputy Health Commissioner Lucien A. Moolenaar II.
Moolenaar is charged with one count each of conversion of government funds, grand larceny and making false statements to government officials.
"This case is about greed; it's about theft; it's about lies," Armando Bonilla, prosecuting attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in his opening statement.
Bonilla said Moolenaar knowingly kept $102,497.85 that he was erroneously paid by the V.I. government in checks issued over the course of more then five years. Furthermore, he lied to cover up his crime, Bonilla told the jury.
In 1995, Bonilla said, Moolenaar came upon two paychecks issued to him by the government in January and October of 1992 worth $1,626.85. Since the checks were too old to be cashed, Moolenaar sent his then-fiancée, Amy Moron, to the Finance Department to get them reissued.
Moolenaar did receive the money. However, due to an error, $1,626.85 was added thereafter to every other paycheck of Moolenaar's for the next five years and three months, Bonilla said. This amounted to overpayment of $102, 497.85.
"Dr. Moolenaar just took the money month to month and did not say anything," Bonilla said.
In 2000, he said, an employee of the Finance Department's Treasury Division found the error. The Finance commissioner was notified, and the V.I. Office of Inspector General initiated an investigation.
Moolenaar was informed of the investigation and voluntarily appeared for an interview on Dec. 19, 2000, at which time he told investigators that he was not aware of the overpayments, according to Bonilla.
Moolenaar lied when he claimed he knew nothing of the overpayments, Bonilla said. According to the prosecutor, Moolenaar, a dentist, had filed for bankruptcy and his monthly reports reflected the additional payments.
Moolenaar's attorney, Arturo Watlington, said in his opening statement that the only thing that he agrees on with the prosecution is that 63 overpayments were made.
After the error was discovered, "at no time did the Department of Finance call Dr. Moolenaar to let him know that he was being overpaid," Watlington said.
Watlington said his client was not aware of the overpayments because at that time his financial situation was so bad that he had to file for bankruptcy, and so he let his wife handle the finances.
Furthermore, the defense attorney said, when Moolenaar was told of the overpayment, he asked how he could repay the money. Moolenaar has since repaid $60,000.
"The charge is that Moolenaar stole the money," Watlington said, "but the money had been sent to him."
The prosecution called five witnesses to testify before resting the federal government's case: Gary Joseph, Finance Department assistant chief of reconcilement audit; William Belardo, Finance payroll director; Evelyn Boschulte-Hairston, Health Department director of federal grant management; Cynthia Burnette, certified public accountant with the U.S. Trustee Office; and Nicholas Peru, special investigator with the Inspector General's Office.
The trial is to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday before Judge Thomas K. Moore with the defense presenting its case.
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