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  06/28/2017 Third defendant in REAL ID criminal case brought to the Territory  

ST. CROIX, V.I. – A third man accused of participating in an alleged scheme to defraud the government through a federal driver’s license program has been brought back to the Territory to face charges.

            Syed Gilani, who was imprisoned in Boston, Mass., awaiting to be extradited, waived his right to an extradition hearing and was escorted back to St. Croix Tuesday afternoon by special agents from the Department of Justice.

            “Now that we have brought back Syed Gilani to face criminal charges,” Attorney General Claude Earl Walker said, “this is an important step as the people have a right to know what happened to the more than $2 million dollars from Homeland Security that was given to the Virgin Islands between 2008-2011 to implement REAL ID because as of today, there is no REAL ID in the Virgin Islands.  These federal funds are gone, and we had persons who certified that the work was totally completed in 2014 and vendors were paid a lot of money, but we have no REAL ID.”

            On Wednesday morning Gilani, owner of BIZVI, appeared before V.I. Superior Court Magistrate Miguel Camacho with his attorney Pamela Colon for his advice-of-rights hearing.  Magistrate Miguel Camacho found there was sufficient evidence to move forward on the charges, allowed him to be released on posting a $200,000 unsecured bond into the third-party custody of his wife and ordered him to abide by a number of court-imposed bail conditions, which include having no contact with his co-defendants. 

            In all, three men – Jerris Browne, former director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Gregory Christian, former Management Information Systems and Gilani – were taken into custody and charged in connection with the alleged REAL/ID program scheme. 

            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.

Last week, Brown and Christian attended an advice-of-rights hearing before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady, who sustained the charges and released both men on their own recognizances.

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 a press conference last week to announce the arrests of Browne and Christian.  “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.”

  Third defendant in REAL ID criminal case brought to the Territory.pdf