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HomeNewsLocal newsBarnes Sentenced to 44 Months for Theft of Casino Commission Funds

Barnes Sentenced to 44 Months for Theft of Casino Commission Funds

Stephanie Barnes has been sentenced to 44 months in prison — just over 3 1/2 years — for her role in the theft of government funds when she was a contract worker for the V.I. Casino Control Commission.

Stephanie Barnes (Source file photo)

Barnes, 64, who has never wavered in her defense that she was an unwitting victim of her boss Violet Anne Golden’s profligate spending, had faced up to 10 years behind bars on charges of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds, receipt of government property, and filing false tax returns.

She was found guilty at her jury trial in December 2021.

In sentencing Barnes on Friday on St. Croix, V.I. District Court Chief Judge Robert Molloy denied a motion for acquittal that her trial attorney filed in March 2022 alleging that any fraud or theft that took place was the work of Golden, the former head of the Casino Control Commission who pleaded guilty to misappropriating $295,503 of government funds in January 2020.

Under her plea deal, Golden was sentenced to 24 months behind bars in August that year and was released in September 2021. She testified at Barnes’ trial on behalf of the prosecution.

Barnes’ sentence was handed down more than four years after she and Golden were arrested in July 2019 following an investigation by the V.I. Inspector General in 2018 that led to a referral to the FBI and, subsequently, a grand jury indictment.

According to court records, Golden and Barnes spent money intended for agency operations on lavish trips, clothing, entertainment, and other unapproved items after Golden hired Barnes in 2015 to develop programs for people with gambling addictions as the commission’s first-ever “Certified Gambling Specialist.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the expenditures included a chartered plane and VIP passes to the St. Kitts Music Festival, travel to casino-related conferences “so as to enjoy luxurious hotel stays with meals and room service at high-end places such as the Ritz Carlton Hotel,” excursions to Disney World in Florida and to see “Hamilton” on Broadway in New York City.

The two women also conspired to use commission funds to pay for Barnes’ personal vehicle repairs and gasoline, hurricane-related personal expenses after the twin Category 5 storms Irma and Maria in 2017, and to help pay for her certification in problem gambling as well as her Ph.D., according to court documents.

The false tax return charge alleged that Barnes reported income of only $35,894 for 2016, despite knowing she had received much more than that in funds stolen and embezzled from the Casino Commission and wages paid through her “unlawful agreement with Golden,” the government said.

All told, the evidence established that Barnes received salary and benefits from the commission totaling over $600,000 in approximately three years, the government said.

On Friday, Molloy ordered Barnes to pay restitution of $247,490 and a special assessment of $100. She also will be subject to three years of supervised release once her sentence ends.

Barnes had been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since Dec. 27, 2021, but a check of the Bureau of Prisons website on Monday showed that she was released from that facility on Dec. 1, and the court docket did not indicate where she will serve her sentence.

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