Four men, including two civilian employees of the V.I. Police Department, were arrested Wednesday and charged with committing fraud against the government.
Arrested were VIPD’s motor pool fleet manager Stefan Blyden, 51, and motor pool employee Jose A. Mendez, 58. Local auto body mechanics Jose Castillo and Laurent Lake, the owner of Pookie Auto Body Repair, were also arrested, according to Police Department news release. The men were all arrested based on a warrant issued by the V.I. Superior Court just after 10 a.m. Wednesday.
According to a police affidavit, Mendez removed several items from the motor pool (including a welding tank, water cooler and bottles, tires, doors, glass and parts from damaged vehicles) without permission, while Blyden was paid for repairs that were never completed and supplies that were never purchased for the motor pool.
Castillo, owner of Castillo’s Body Repair, and Lake aided and abetted the fraud, the VIPD release said.
Once they were arrested, both men were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the criminal charges.
“It’s a sad day at the VIPD anytime when we have to take this type of action against one of our own, whether they are sworn or civilian personnel,” Assistant Police Commissioner Raymond L. Hyndman said about the arrests. “However, when a VIPD employee chooses to operate outside the law and use government resources for their personal use they will be investigated by the VIPD and if warranted, they will be arrested and turned over to the Department of Justice for prosecution.”
Hyndman added that any private vendor that colludes with government workers to defraud the government will also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Hyndman said that he briefed Acting Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. on the case, which has been under investigation for several months.