Sentences were handed down Thursday in four separate cases in District Courts for the District of the Virgin Islands, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced.
Bank Robbery, Shooting
Melik Petersen was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for assault with the intent to commit robbery.
According to court documents filed in the case, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2019, Ranger American Armored Services guards were attempting to pick up $951,000 from a Scotia Bank branch in the Altona area of St. Thomas. Petersen and another unidentified individual, both armed, attempted to rob the guards of the money and a gunfight ensued, during which one of the guards suffered a bullet wound in his leg. The two assailants and the getaway driver then fled the scene after failing to steal the money.
This case was investigated by the Virgin Islands Police Department, and it was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Adam Sleeper and Nathan Brooks.
Eilin Castillo Montano of the Dominican Republic was sentenced Thursday after previously pleading guilty to illegally reentering the United States after being ordered deported and removed.
According to court documents, Immigration Customs Enforcement deportation officers received information from a credible source that an individual who was previously deported from the United States was back in St. Thomas. ICE officers observed the defendant and took him into custody, where he admitted to being in the United States illegally.
Criminal and immigration records checks revealed that the defendant previously had been ordered deported and on April 19, 2016, he was removed to the Dominican Republic. His removal followed a federal conviction on August 31, 2015, in the District Court of the Virgin Islands on charges of possessing a firearm by an illegal alien and a local conviction in the Virgin Islands Superior Court on January 11, 2016, for discharging a firearm.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert A. Molloy sentenced Castillo to 12 months imprisonment.
Joanne Benjamin, age 41, from the Virgin Islands pled guilty in federal court on Thursday to conspiracy to defraud the United States.
According to the plea agreement filed with the court, from January 2011 to July 2012, Joanne Benjamin and others participated in a scheme to steal money from the United States Treasury by fraudulently obtaining federal income tax refunds. The scheme involved the acquisition of personal identifying information of individuals (that is, names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth) used to electronically file falsified tax returns with a designation of refunds to the acquired bank accounts or debit cards. Defendant and her co-conspirators withdrew the deposited refunds, spent them using a debit card or transferred them to other accounts, all for personal use.
As a result of the scheme, approximately $110,896 of falsely-claimed returns was designated for deposit into defendant’s bank account, of which approximately $80,425 was actually deposited therein, according to the plea agreement.
Of 10 defendants charged in the tax fraud scheme, Benjamin is the eighth to plead guilty. Seven others have entered guilty pleas, three of whom have been sentenced in federal court by District Court Chief Judge Wilma Lewis. The remaining two defendants are scheduled for trial on June 7.
A sentencing date for Benjamin is scheduled for July 14, and she faces a maximum sentence of 10 years, up to a $250,000 fine, and the payment of restitution.
The prosecution of this fraud scheme is the result of years of investigative work by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, which identified and dismantled a massive stolen identity refund fraud scheme perpetrated in the Virgin Islands and elsewhere.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Ortiz.
Warren Michael Whyte, a citizen of Guyana, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty to illegally re-entering the United States after being ordered deported and removed.
According to court documents, on March 14, 2020, an ICE Deportation Officer received information from a source that an individual who was previously deported from the United States was working in the Smith Bay area in St. Thomas at an auto repair shop called “Auto World.” Criminal and immigration records checks were completed and revealed that on June 18, 2002, Whyte had been ordered removed from the United States by the Immigration & Naturalization Service to his native country of Guyana as an aggravated felon due to his prior felony conviction.
Court records show that on March 17, 2020, at approximately 7 a.m., an ICE officer observed an individual who appeared to be the person identified in the picture as Warren Whyte. Officer Williams conducted a vehicle stop on V.I. Route 40. During the encounter, Whyte freely admitted that his name was Warren Whyte. Mr. Whyte was taken into custody and transported to the ICE office where his fingerprints resulted in a positive match to his prior record of deportation.
During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Robert A. Molloy said Whyte’s prior conviction was almost 20 years ago, and that Whyte had been on home incarceration since March 17, 2020. Molloy sentenced Whyte to time served.
Whyte will be deported from the United States as a result of his conviction.
This case was investigated by the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan A. Albino.