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Burning The Small Fry, Ignoring The Sharks

June 10, 2009 — Adelbert "Bert" Bryan made an interesting point during the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention a few weeks back.
Yes, that would be the former St. Croix senator who rails against every ethnic group but his own and regularly makes vague threats against anyone who doesn’t share his opinions.
The last time I spoke to Bryan, I asked a question he apparently didn’t like, to which he replied: "I’ll stick you." In addition to promises to knife me, I’ve also had several good conversations with Bryan. Like somebody’s crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, his behavior may not be very appropriate, but he has his accustomed place at the table and occasionally says something notable.
Back to the point; Bryan asked why former V.I. Senator Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was investigated by the FBI for years, while billionaire fraudsters like Bernie Madoff and, quite possibly, Allen Stanford steal billions while the world fawns all over them?
I’ve no beef with the prosecutors, who did their rightful task with vigor. But it says something important about our society that the FBI stalks Hansen for years, only to ultimately convict her of not filing a tax return and give her a suspended sentence (see "Former Senator Hansen Sentenced"), yet if anyone at all had checked with any of the companies Madoff was telling his customers he invested in and asked, "Does this man own this stake?" Madoff would have been stopped in his tracks decades ago.From the late 1980s, no one ever did. Even though whistleblowers repeatedly alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission, Madoff was only busted when he turned himself in.
Then there is billionaire Allen Stanford, who received the red carpet treatment everywhere he went, including St. Croix. (See: "SEC Probes Irregularities At Stanford Bank.") Meanwhile, his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank grew over more than a decade into an alleged $8 billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
In 2006, the federal government charged Hansen with a conflict of interest on a $25,000 appropriation. She was found innocent and promptly charged with perjury. That charge was dropped and ultimately Hansen was given a three-year suspended sentence and 600 hours of community service for failure to file a tax return.
How is it the New York Times can’t seem to find St. Croix on a map, but the FBI finds the time and resources to investigate and prosecute a former St. Croix senator like Hansen, over and over again?
True, Hansen was a sidebar to a bigger corruption scandal which landed former government officials in prison. (See: "Ohanio Harris Gets One-Year Sentence, $5,000 Fine for Conspiracy Plea.") But why are small fry in the Virgin Islands prosecuted while multi-billion dollar frauds are carried on in broad daylight by well-known national players for decades? Do we glorify wealth so much that its mere trappings — private jets, $50,000 watches and nice suits — instill deference, making it seem rude to even ask questions about what those well-dressed people are doing with the billions in other people’s dollars under their control? Or have the wealthy simply used their connections to the levers of power to hobble the nation’s regulatory systems? Or both?
Whatever the reasons, folks like Hansen are investigated and when acquitted are promptly charged with new crimes and pursued until there is a conviction, no matter how trivial. This while even today, Allen Stanford has yet to be charged with so much as littering even though billions of dollars under his control are missing.
I’m sure both Hansen’s prosecutors and those who are belatedly investigating Stanford go about their jobs diligently and in a manner that is above reproach. There is no conspiracy. But these contrasts nonetheless demonstrate a profound inequity in how different groups of people are treated by the law.
And for pointing that out we can thank, of all people, Bert Bryan.

Editor’s note: Bill Kossler in a Source reporter on St. Croix.

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June 10, 2009 -- Adelbert "Bert" Bryan made an interesting point during the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention a few weeks back.
Yes, that would be the former St. Croix senator who rails against every ethnic group but his own and regularly makes vague threats against anyone who doesn't share his opinions.
The last time I spoke to Bryan, I asked a question he apparently didn't like, to which he replied: "I'll stick you." In addition to promises to knife me, I've also had several good conversations with Bryan. Like somebody's crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, his behavior may not be very appropriate, but he has his accustomed place at the table and occasionally says something notable.
Back to the point; Bryan asked why former V.I. Senator Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was investigated by the FBI for years, while billionaire fraudsters like Bernie Madoff and, quite possibly, Allen Stanford steal billions while the world fawns all over them?
I've no beef with the prosecutors, who did their rightful task with vigor. But it says something important about our society that the FBI stalks Hansen for years, only to ultimately convict her of not filing a tax return and give her a suspended sentence (see "Former Senator Hansen Sentenced"), yet if anyone at all had checked with any of the companies Madoff was telling his customers he invested in and asked, "Does this man own this stake?" Madoff would have been stopped in his tracks decades ago.From the late 1980s, no one ever did. Even though whistleblowers repeatedly alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission, Madoff was only busted when he turned himself in.
Then there is billionaire Allen Stanford, who received the red carpet treatment everywhere he went, including St. Croix. (See: "SEC Probes Irregularities At Stanford Bank.") Meanwhile, his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank grew over more than a decade into an alleged $8 billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
In 2006, the federal government charged Hansen with a conflict of interest on a $25,000 appropriation. She was found innocent and promptly charged with perjury. That charge was dropped and ultimately Hansen was given a three-year suspended sentence and 600 hours of community service for failure to file a tax return.
How is it the New York Times can't seem to find St. Croix on a map, but the FBI finds the time and resources to investigate and prosecute a former St. Croix senator like Hansen, over and over again?
True, Hansen was a sidebar to a bigger corruption scandal which landed former government officials in prison. (See: "Ohanio Harris Gets One-Year Sentence, $5,000 Fine for Conspiracy Plea.") But why are small fry in the Virgin Islands prosecuted while multi-billion dollar frauds are carried on in broad daylight by well-known national players for decades? Do we glorify wealth so much that its mere trappings -- private jets, $50,000 watches and nice suits -- instill deference, making it seem rude to even ask questions about what those well-dressed people are doing with the billions in other people's dollars under their control? Or have the wealthy simply used their connections to the levers of power to hobble the nation's regulatory systems? Or both?
Whatever the reasons, folks like Hansen are investigated and when acquitted are promptly charged with new crimes and pursued until there is a conviction, no matter how trivial. This while even today, Allen Stanford has yet to be charged with so much as littering even though billions of dollars under his control are missing.
I'm sure both Hansen's prosecutors and those who are belatedly investigating Stanford go about their jobs diligently and in a manner that is above reproach. There is no conspiracy. But these contrasts nonetheless demonstrate a profound inequity in how different groups of people are treated by the law.
And for pointing that out we can thank, of all people, Bert Bryan.

Editor's note: Bill Kossler in a Source reporter on St. Croix.