V.I. – One
of the men accused of participating in a scheme to defraud the government through
a property auction has admitted to his role in the conspiracy.
Charleswell, 50, of Anna’s Retreat pleaded guilty to taking part in the plot,
which occurred during an Aug. 30, 2012 property bid conducted by the office of
the lieutenant governor.
faced 14 charges – one count each of conspiracy; recording a fraudulent
certificate; obtaining money by false pretense; fraudulent claims upon the
government; conversion of government property; grand larceny; forgery
(recording a false note); embezzlement by public officer; embezzlement and falsification
of public accounts and two counts each of forgery; forgery (uttering a false
document); and criminally influenced and corrupt organizations – in connection
with the crime. However, rather than face a jury, Charleswell accepted the
terms of a closed plea agreement offered by Attorney General Claude Earl
appeared in court for a change-of-plea hearing today and stood before V.I.
Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston to formally admit to the crime. Under the
terms of the plea bargain, Charleswell entered a guilty plea to the single
charge of conspiracy and in exchange, the remaining counts against him will be
dismissed, Charleswell will testify against the remaining defendants and he
will be sentenced to a term of three years’ imprisonment with all but one year
suspended. After he is released from prison, Charleswell will be placed on
supervised probation, he has to complete 100 hours of community service and pay
$1,000 in fines.
was arrested Nov. 19, 2015, following an investigation by Nicholas Peru,
special investigator in the office of the Inspector General. He was released
from custody after posting bail.
to the affidavit filed by 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.
Aug. 30, 2012, Charleswell oversaw a public auction in the St. Thomas-St. John
district. One of the properties auctioned was 97 Est. Frydenhoj, on which the
opening bid was placed at $6,442.28. The first bidder placed a bid of $75,000,
a second person bid $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, according to Peru.
unwritten policy developed by officials in 2012 required that the three highest
bidders be recorded in the event that the highest bidder failed to meet the ten
percent deposit amount, but the day after the auction, the winning bidder did
not make the required deposit and the second highest bidder should have been
contacted, Peru wrote.
On Sept. 4, 2012, a deposit
of $2,000 was paid on a bid that was not noted on the record and on Oct. 11,
2012, a man paid the balance of $8,000 on the Est. Frydenhoj property and the
office of the lieutenant governor transferred the property to that man for
$10,000. Then, on Sept. 25, 2013, the man transferred the same property to
another man, according to Peru.
The investigation revealed
that certain procedural changes made by officials at the office of the
lieutenant governor allowed individuals to fraudulently manipulate the bidding
process in a scheme in which the highest bidder purposefully makes a
substantially inflated high bid, then fails to post the ten percent deposit so
that the property would go to another bidder or individual for a substantially
low price, Peru wrote.
This manipulation 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,
according to Peru.
Dunston has scheduled
Charleswell’s sentencing for Mar. 22. Charleswell remains on bail pending his