Former V.I. Public Finance Authority Director Julito Francis and two V.I. businessmen were arrested on St. Thomas Thursday, and charged in U.S. District Court with bribery, conspiracy and extortion relating to more than $17 million in construction contracts.
According to the indictment, Francis and John Woods conspired together to recommend Gerard Castor’s business for contracts on the Turnbull Library, and again to let Balbo Construction keep the contracts when Castor failed to meet the contract requirements. In exchange, according to the indictment, Castor allegedly gave Francis nearly half a million dollars in free constructions and "constructed bedrooms, a pool, pool room and deck" for Francis.
Woods’ role in the alleged appears to be smaller. Castor improved Woods driveway, worth about $15,000, allegedly in exchange for Woods relaying information between Castor and Francis.
Castor allegedly submitted a proposal in Jan. 2008 "to furnish all labor, materials, tools and equipment to complete Renovation” of Parcel No. 1 B-29 Estate Solberg, St. Thomas, a property owned at the time by Francis, for an estimated cost of $343,000.
A few months later, in September 2008, Francis recommended to the PFA that Castor receive the St. Thomas Regional Library contract. Shortly afterwards, Balbo Construction performed the work at Francis’s personal residence, without normal payment. Years later, around January 2015, Francis and Castor wrote up a contract for Francis to pay for the work on his private residence.
Woods similarly signed a contract to pay Castor for the work on his driveway in 2012, more than two years after the work was completed, according to the indictment, which cites the belated agreements as evidence the three tried to conceal their conspiracy to defraud the V.I. government.
Francis later allegedly signed off on millions of dollars in contract extensions, changing the terms of the construction contract on the library and spending millions more than initially contracted. He also signed a notice to proceed on work, although Balbo construction had not posted a payment and performance bond, guaranteeing performance on the contract, as required by the contract.
Francis, 53, is charged with 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery, extortion under color of official right, honest services wire fraud and perjury.
Gerard Castor, 69, president and owner of Balbo Construction Corporation, is charged with 10 counts of conspiracy, bribery and honest services wire fraud.
John Woods, 59, co-principal of an architectural company that worked on behalf of the VIPFA, is charged with three counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion under color of official right.
Francis left the PFA in 2010 to head of the V.I. Next Generation Networks, but was fired by Gov. John deJongh Jr. in 2011 after an audit found major problems in Francis’s oversight of federal grants. Before that, he served as chair of the PFA.
Before Thursday’s arrest, Castor was serving a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to tax evasion. Former Legislature Executive Director Louis "Lolo" Willis, who is serving a five-year sentence on bribery charges relating to his work at the Legislature, was also charged in that case for allegedly helping Castor evade taxes years earlier when Willis headed the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau. (See Related Links below)