FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2016
By Corliss Smithen
Public Media Officer
(340) 774-5666 ext. 105
Florida man arrested on grand larceny
and related charges in a check-cashing scheme
ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. – A sub-contract worker from Florida employed
to help with construction work at the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) was
advised of his rights on grand larceny and related charges, Attorney General
Denise George has announced.
Rodriguez Rionda, 39, appeared before Magistrate Carolyn Hermon-Purcell
Thursday morning for his initial court hearing after police executed an arrest
warrant Wednesday and charged him with one count each of grand larceny,
possession of stolen property, forgery and obtaining money by false pretense in
relation to the alleged theft of several of the Port Authority’s checks.
Hermon-Purcell found that there was probable cause to sustain all of the
charges and to move the case forward.
She set bail at $250,000 and ordered Rionda to abide by a number of
court-imposed bail conditions, which include being placed under 24-hour house
arrest and surrendering his travel documents.
According to an
affidavit in support of the arrest warrant filed by Det. Brian Bedminster of
the Virgin Islands Police Department’s Economic Crime Unit, on June 11, the
Virgin Islands Port Authority filed a report of grand larceny with police,
alleging that someone made off with several emergency VIPA Marine-Revenue
checks that were stored in a filing cabinet in VIPA’s administrative building. That building was damaged in the 2017
hurricanes and is currently being repaired by Lemartec Corporation, a
Florida-based construction firm with operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Police learnt that the stolen checks,
totaling approximately $93,000, were cashed and/or deposited into several Banco
Popular and First Bank accounts. The
stolen checks bore several names, including the defendant’s, of persons who were
identified as employees of Alpero, a company subcontracted by Lemartec to complete
the roof repairs at the airport.
interviewed three men who worked at a local grocery store and who frequently
visited the bank
to make deposits
and cash the stolen checks. They
reported that Rodriguez regularly came to the store to purchase items and to
cash several hand-written VIPA Marine-Revenue checks. Investigations revealed that the store owners
paid out to Rodriguez approximately $90,000 in cash. Another store owner told police that Rodriguez
came into the store and presented him with three handwritten VIPA
Marine-Revenue checks in exchange for $5,200 minus any service fees, Bedminster
on witnesses’ statements and video surveillance footage, police arrested
Rionda. He is scheduled to return to court
on Aug. 8 for his arraignment hearing, at which
he will formally answer to the charges.
AG George reminds the public that any person charged with a crime in the Virgin Islands is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.