Former Virgin Islands Senator Charged with Wire Fraud and Embezzlement of Legislative Funds
A former Virgin Islands senator was arrested on June 29, 2016, in Modena, Italy, and extradited today for allegedly defrauding the government of the Virgin Islands of tens of thousands of dollars while he served as a senator in the territorial legislature.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe of the District of the Virgin Islands, Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Leff of the FBI’s San Juan Division and Virgin Islands Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt made the announcement.
Wayne Anthony Gunnar James, 55, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was indicted on Oct. 1, 2015, with two counts of wire fraud and one count of federal program embezzlement.
According to the indictment, from 2009 to 2011, James served as Chair of the Senate Committee on Youth, Education and Culture in the 28th Legislature of the Virgin Islands. While serving as the chair, James allegedly obtained tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for the purpose of acquiring and translating historical documents related to the “Fireburn,” an 1878 uprising by freed slaves in St. Croix. The indictment alleges that James submitted false documents to the legislature and received cash advances in order to conduct historical research on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands. James embezzled the cash advances for his own personal benefit instead of using them for the intended purposes, according to the indictment.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI, Office of the Virgin Islands Inspector General and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation are investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Amanda R. Vaughn and Justin D. Weitz of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of the Virgin Islands are prosecuting the case. Cristina M. Posa of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter.