Ronica Miller, wife of alleged Schneider Regional Hospital fraudster Rodney Miller, will get a chance at a reduced sentence because the V.I. Supreme Court has ruled Superior Court violated her constitutional rights by citing her religion as a reason to increase the sentence to three years instead of two.
Miller entered a plea agreement in 2014 on charges of accessory after the fact in relation to alleged fraud by her husband, Rodney Miller the former chief executive officer of Schneider Regional Medical Center.
In her plea agreement, Ronica Miller confessed she illegally removed funds that were frozen by the court. The funds were improperly transferred to her control to hide them. The events leading to the conviction took place between 2005 and 2012.
In 2008, as the court began to take action in the case against husband Rodney Miller and two co-defendants, it froze a credit union account owned by Ronica Miller. The account had $700,000 which prosecutors asserted had been transferred there unlawfully to hide it from the courts.
She withdrew about $400,000 from it in 2012 and as a result the V.I. Department of Justice charged her with 10 counts of acting as an accessory after the fact.
Unable to post bail, Ronica Miller remained in custody for 15 months before her sentencing. She entered a plea agreement, pleading guilty to one count of acting as an accessory after the fact. As part of the agreement, the Department of Justice recommended two years in jail with all but 15 months suspended, along with $144,000 in restitution.
Superior Court Judge Adam Christian instead sentenced her to three years in prison with credit for time served and a slightly different amount of restitution.
In the court’s sentencing report, Christian wrote that he found the Justice Department recommendation “to be too lenient, given [Miller’s] numerous violations of the [c]ourt’s orders, with knowledge, with her intelligence, with her claims to Christianity and her theology degree, and the [c]ourt being in a position where it can only at this juncture issue a period of incarceration and restitution with no guarantee that restitution will ever be made.”
In its unanimous Aug. 9 opinion, the V.I. Supreme Court found the “Superior Court erred because it went beyond permissibly acknowledging the facts included in the pre-sentencing report and sentencing memorandum to impermissibly relying on Miller’s religion to impose a harsher sentence.”
The decision cites several precedential cases that found any use of a defendant’s religion in sentencing is not permitted by the U.S. Constitution.
It also gave guidance that the Superior Court had more leeway to impose a split sentence – of probation and incarceration – than the judge had believed.
The justices declared that they “vacate the portion of the July 6, 2015, judgment that sentences Miller and remand with instructions to re-sentence her in accordance with Virgin Islands law and this opinion because the court committed plain error when it relied on Miller’s religion to impose a harsher sentence, and it is unclear whether the court would have imposed the same sentence absent its reliance on this impermissible factor.”
The court could impose a sentence of the same length, without citing Ronica Miller’s religion.
Her charges stem from allegations that Rodney Miller, aided by Amos Carty and Peter Najawicz, defrauded the hospital of hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years. Miller reportedly had two different employment contracts: one that reflected the $150,000 salary listed on his notice of personal action, which reflect what an employee’s position is and how much he or she is paid; and another that contained hundreds of thousands of dollars more in extra benefits that prosecutors argued Carty added without informing the hospital board.
Federal court imposed a $1.2 million civil judgment against him.
In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Rodney Miller, to 21 months in federal prison for income tax fraud for falsely reporting total income of $265,198 while knowing his true total income was $510,947.
Rodney Miller has already served that sentence.