Admitting he “made a mistake,” Calford Charleswell, a former employee of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office who admitted to joining a scheme to defraud the government, was sentenced Monday to one year in jail.
Charleswell was one of four suspects in the investigation. His one-year sentence was the longest of the four handed down to the conspirators.
Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston actually sentenced Charleswell three years in jail with all but one year suspended. He also as credited for the one day he served in jail and given until July 31 to self-surrender. Dunston also ordered Charleswell to serve two years of supervised probation, to complete 100 hours of community service and pay $675 in fees and court costs within the first year of his probation.
“He held a position with the government and it was through this position that this crime was committed,” Dunston said. “The conspiracy may have had its origin elsewhere, but … he was the supervisor of the auction, which permitted the transfer of this property.”
Before the sentence was handed down, Charleswell apologized to his co-workers and his family before hearing his fate.
“I made a mistake,” Charleswell said.
The sentencing came on the same day the last of four co-conspirators entered a guilty plea. Paul Sabers, 66, pleaded guilty Monday morning to one count of compounding a crime and was sentenced to a suspended jail term of 90 days, supervised probation for one year and 100 hours of community service.
Sentencing day also came for Sylvester Warner, 43, of Estate Peter. Dunston ordered Warner to serve supervised probation for one year and ordered him to pay $575 in fees and court costs.
Edward McKenzie, a fourth defendant who pleaded guilty to one count of compounding a crime, was sentenced to a suspended jail term of 90 days, supervised probation for one year and 100 hours of community service.
All four men were arrested in November 2015, after an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into a property auction scheme. Justice spokeswoman Corliss Smithen described the process that led to the arrests.
“According to the affidavit filed by Special Investigator Nicholas Peru, Charleswell worked as chief enforcement officer in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and, as part of his duties, he was responsible for collecting property taxes in the St. Thomas-St. John district, preparing payment plans, property tax liens and property listings for auction, as well as conducting public property auctions.
‘On Aug. 30, 2012, Charleswell oversaw a public auction in the St. Thomas-St. John district. One of the properties being auctioned was 97 Estate Frydenhoj, on which the opening bid was placed at $6,442.28. The first bidder tendered $75,000, a second person proffered $42,000 and the third bid was $10,100; however, the bidder tracking sheet prepared by Charleswell showed that there were only two bidders on the property,” Smithen said.
The spokeswoman added the IG investigation revealed that certain procedural changes made by officials at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor allowed individuals to fraudulently manipulate the bidding process.
The scheme, “prevented potential bidders from making fair and legitimate bids on properties offered at public auctions and potentially reduced the likelihood of the property owner recouping any excess proceeds from the sale after taxes and fees are paid,” the spokeswoman said.
In a statement issued Monday, Attorney General Claude Walker thanked Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt and his staff for shedding light on the conspiracy.
“Charleswell’s conduct was a disgraceful violation of the people’s trust. I thank the Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt and his team of agents and auditors for their partnership with the Attorney General’s office. Together, we will continue to target public corruption in the Virgin Islands and hold government officials accountable who have been found to have misused the people’s precious resources,” Walker said.