Prosser's V.I. holding companies, Innovative Communications and Emerging Communications, owners of the Vitelco phone and Innovative cable television companies, filed for bankruptcy in August 2006. Prosser is personally in Chapter 7 involuntary bankruptcy proceedings.
Arthur Stelzer, the valet, testified during the second of four days of U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearings on St. Thomas to determine the extent to which the bankruptcy law protects Prosser's real and personal properly from seizure, and the extent to which certain assets belong to Prosser's adult children rather than the bankrupt estate.
Stelzer was Prosser's personal valet, arranging travel, buying clothing and jewelry, selecting and arranging clothing outfits, and running sundry errands for Prosser from 2002 until October 2007.
"Were you asked by Mr. Prosser to destroy property while he was in bankruptcy?" asked James Lee, attorney for Prosser's court-appointed Chapter 7 trustee.
"Yes … computer hard drives on Mr. Prosser's laptop and on the computer in what I call the library," Stelzer said.
"Did you attempt to destroy the hard drives?" Lee asked.
"Yes, one was removed from the computer by Audio Advisors," Stelzer said."They came out and removed the drive from the computer, and to the best of my knowledge put in a clean drive. Mr. Prosser asked me if we could do the same thing to the laptop. I said I wasn't sure they could remove it, but Audio Advisors said they could clean it to the best of their ability."
Audio Advisors is a Florida-based provider of full-service, high-end home audio, electronics and computer service.
Robert Craig, Prosser's personal attorney, first tried to portray Stelzer as a disgruntled former employee.
"How was he (Prosser) to work for?" Craig asked.
"Just a very demanding employer," Stelzer said.
Craig then quoted Stelzer's answer to a similar question in his written deposition to the court, in which Stelzer says Prosser is very difficult, hyper-critical, demanding and unforgiving.
Stelzer responded that having a difficult boss does not mean you have a bad working relationship with the boss. Craig then questioned whether the hard drive's contents were destroyed.
"In fact, what they did was copy the hard drives?" he asked.
"That is not what they were engaged for," Stelzer said, repeating that he personally was directed by Prosser to have the contents of the hard drives and the drives themselves destroyed, and he personally arranged for the company to come and scrub the two hard drives and replace one. Audio Advisors gave him the hard drive they removed, he said, but rather than destroy it, he kept it and later gave it to Lee.
Stelzer also testified that he was paid not by Prosser but by Prosser's company ICC, and that he routinely made purchases of expensive jewelry, wine, cigars, art and clothing, as well as extensive first-class travel arrangements. All of these personal expenses were paid for not by Prosser but with an ICC credit card, Stelzer said.
Prosser and his wife, Dawn, also directed him to temporarily hold onto a number of extremely expensive pieces of jewelry and to seek false low appraisals on others, Stelzer testified.
Lee asked which items Stelzer was told to get low appraisals for. In addition to a rose-gold Chopard watch, diamond cuff links, and a nearly two-carat diamond ring, "There was, I believe, a Breguet solid gold watch, and then a Parimigiani Fleurier solid gold watch on gold bracelet, a gold money clip and there was his Tag Heuer stainless-steel watch," Stelzer said. "(Prosser) said he wanted a low price."
The valet never got the low appraisal.
"I was having difficulty getting a low price without offering it for sale," Stelzer said. "They wouldn't give me a low-ball price unless it was for sale."
After Stelzer left the stand, Prosser's St. Thomas attorney, A. Jeffrey Weiss, confronted him in the hallway, asking him questions about his testimony and threatening to have him subpoenaed if he didn't answer.
"You should have asked your question while he was on the stand, in a controlled environment," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald told Weiss. "Do not intimidate witnesses. Do not confront witnesses as they leave the courtroom. Don't do this again."
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