Lou Hermon and Kesha Williams, both former V.I. Health Department employees, were arrested and advised of their rights Wednesday on multiple embezzlement charges.
Warrants for Hermon and Williams were issued Tuesday and, following their initial court hearing Wednesday morning, V.I. Magistrate Judge Henry Carr III found probable cause to uphold the charges and move the cases forward.
According to Justice officials, who released the details at a St. Thomas press conference on Wednesday, both Hermon and Williams were charged with two counts each of making fraudulent claims upon the government; conversion of government property; embezzlement by public and private officers; buying, receiving or possessing stolen property; and aiding and abetting.
At the time of their arrests, bail for each was set at $35,000 but, in court Wednesday, Carr reduced both bail amounts to $15,000 and allowed Williams to be released into third party custody after posting an unsecured appearance bond. She was also ordered to abide by a number of court-imposed bail conditions, to include not having contact with witnesses or victims, including employees at the Community Health Clinic, where both she and Hermon worked before being fired in March.
Bail for Hermon was set at $15,000 cash or property bond, but Carr said he would consider a bail modification if Hermon submits a court-approved third-party custodian and provides confirmation of where he will be living.
According to court documents, Hermon and Williams worked at the Community Health Clinic on St. Thomas and were responsible for processing clients who applied for health cards. The codefendants allegedly circumvented the Health’s procedures for distributing the health cards by issuing health cards to clients without having them go through the proper procedural process, officials said at Wednesday’s press conference.
Williams admitted that she issued V.I. food handlers’ health cards to individuals without obtaining the necessary medical clearance information and payment, according to Justice Department officials, who also indicated that more arrests may be coming.
“Persons who are currently holding fraudulent cards are aware of that, so they obviously have to know that they are subjecting themselves to the possibility of being charged, with some of the same charges,” Attorney General Claude Walker said at the press conference, which was held in conjunction with the Department of Health. “If you’re in possession of a card, you certainly run the risk of being uncovered and also being charged.”
Walked added that food handlers have the responsibility to obtain their cards legitimately. Circumventing the process, such as hand washing or other protocols, could make the public sick, he said.
Acting Health Commissioner Taetia Phillip-Dorsett said Wednesday that the department also plans to develop a new processing system for providing authorized health cards, which includes modernizing the processing and issuance systems. Phillip-Dorsett said that currently there are about 12,000 health cards in circulation territorywide, which will all be recalled even though only 100 of them are believed to be fraudulent.
New cards will be issued free of cost, she said.
Hermon and Williams are scheduled to return to court Dec. 8 for their arraignment hearing, where they will enter pleas on the charges.