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  06/19/2017 Former BMV Director, two others arrested in REAL ID alleged scheme  

ST. CROIX, V.I. – A former director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and two others have been arrested on multiple charges stemming from an alleged scheme to defraud the government through a federal driver’s license program, Attorney General Claude Earl Walker has announced.

            At a press conference Monday morning at the Department of Justice’s conference room at Castle Coakley, St. Croix, AG Walker said former BMV director, Jerris Browne; former Management Information Systems administrator, Gregory Christian; and owner of BIZVI, Syed Gilani, were taken into custody on June 15 pursuant to arrest warrants signed by V.I. Superior Court Magistrate Henry Carr III. 

            Each of the men faces one count of obtaining money by false pretense, conversion of government property, embezzlement by public officer, filing false instruments, falsification of public accounts, fraudulent claims upon the government, false certificate by public officers and criminally influenced and corrupt organizations (CICO) conspiracy.

According to AG Walker, federal agents apprehended Gilani in the state of Massachusetts and he is imprisoned there awaiting extradition.  Browne and Christian were captured on St. Croix.  On Monday morning, both men appeared before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady for their advice-of-rights hearing.  Judge Brady found there was sufficient evidence to move forward on the charges and released both men on their own recognizances.

“First, we inform the public that under the U.S. Constitution, the Revised Organic Act of 1954, and Virgin Islands law, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” AG Walker said.

Investigations revealed that the three men allegedly acted in concert to defraud the Virgin Islands government of more than $2 million of federal funds appropriated for the BMV’s REAL/ID program “through a pattern of fraud, deception and trickery,” according to AG Walker.

In 2005, Congress passed the REAL/ID Act to establish certain standards and security protocols for states and territories to follow when issuing driver’s licenses and government-issued identification cards.  The affidavit filed in this matter alleges that the defendants were engaged in a pattern of criminal activity from 2008 to 2011.  Over the course of that period, the defendants acquired the funds under the guise that they were to be used for the BMV’s REAL ID program.

“In September of 2008, former BMV Director Jerris Browne submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requesting funding for the REAL/ID program for the U.S. Virgin Islands and that application was approved for federal funding,” AG Walker said.  “During the fiscal years of 2008 through 2011, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded the Virgin Islands grant funding in excess of $2 million to assist the Bureau of Motor Vehicles with bringing the Virgin Islands into compliance with the mandate of the REAL/ID program.”

The affidavit also alleges that Browne then contracted with several business entities, all of which were owned by Gilani, to manipulate the bidding process by making it appear that these companies were independent companies engaged in competitive bidding as required by law, AG Walker said.

The complaint further alleges that Browne and Christian certified that work was performed by Gilani’s companies and actually paid him, but the work was not done.  In other instances, items were purchased for BMV through Gilani, but he did not furnish the BMV with any of the goods, AG Walker said.

The alleged malfeasance was not revealed until 2015 when the current BMV Director Lawrence Olive discovered that the BMV did not have the functional software application to carry out the mandates of the REAL/ID program, AG Walker said.

“We did an extensive investigation based in part on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s seeking answers from the Virgin Islands as to what happened to the over $2 million that they gave us in 2008-2011 to implement REA/ID,” AG Walker said.  “We have no REAL ID; there is no system.”

AG Walker said the Department of Justice is “extremely confident with what we have done in order to make out our case.”

Deputy Attorney General Joseph Ponteen was also at the press conference.




  Former BMV Director, two others arrested in REAL ID scheme.pdf