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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
AG Walker said
the Department of Justice is “extremely confident with what we have done in
order to make out our case.”
General Joseph Ponteen was also at the press conference.