Oct. 29, 2008 — Brent Blyden, a former division head at Planning and Natural Resources, was sentenced in District Court Wednesday to serve 14 months in prison — followed by three years of supervised release — for his role in an elaborate bribery and kickback scheme meant to defraud the government of $1.4 million.
Blyden was one of several co-conspirators that pled guilty last year to taking part in the scheme, which started with the formation of a sham company called Elite Technical Services. The company was awarded a series of fraudulent government contracts that were funneled through DPNR by its former commissioner, Dean C. Plaskett.
Plaskett, along with former Property and Procurement commissioner Marc Biggs, were convicted in February of committing one count each of federal program bribery. Plaskett — who was sentenced in August to serve nine years in prison — was also found guilty of trying to cover up the fact that no work had been done by Elite on a $125,000 permit review contract that involved going over the plans and specifications needed to secure permits for the construction of a coker plant at Hovensa's St. Croix facility. (See "Plaskett and Biggs Guilty, But Marchena Walks").
It was during trial of the two commissioners that Hollis Griffin, former head of Environmental Protection at DPNR, testified that shortly after he began working at the department in 1999, Blyden came to him and suggested that they form a sham company that could be awarded the permit-review contract.
From there, the two — with help from Atlanta businessman Esmond J. Modeste and former V.I. Fire Services employee Earl E. Brewley — birthed Elite Technical Services, a phony enterprise that would allow the group to pocket hundreds of thousands in government funds, Griffin said during the trial.
By the time Plaskett and Biggs went on trial, Griffin, Modeste, Brewley and Blyden had all pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme. Prosecutors have said that each of the co-conspirators laid out detailed evidence throughout the course of the government's investigation about Biggs' and Plaskett's roles in the Elite Technical Services sham.
Blyden was the last of the group to be sentenced. He was also ordered Wednesday to pay $125,755 in restitution.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.