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St. Croix Native Celeste Bermudez, Former VI CARE Director, Gets 2.5 Years In Jail And Must Pay Back $458K For Theft Of Federal Funds

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE – U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Celeste P. Bermudez, 42, of Methuen, Massachusetts, today to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for theft of federal program funds, Acting United States Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett said.

Gomez also ordered St. Croix native Bermudez to serve a concurrent sentence of 12 months in prison for making and subscribing a false tax return, and pay the following restitution: $321,961.29 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), $137,983.41 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and $50,592 to the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Bermudez also has to pay a $100 special assessment and perform 350 hours of community service.

On April 3, 2017, Bermudez pleaded guilty to theft of federal program funds and making and subscribing a false income tax return. According to the plea agreement, Bermudez was the finance director of the Virgin Islands Community AIDS Resource & Education, Inc. (VICARE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting HIV-AIDS education and support services to individuals living with HIV-AIDS.

In 2011, HUD approved approximately $1.3 million in grant funds to VICARE. During the period July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014, HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded VICARE approximately $627,365 in grant funds.

Bermudez admitted to embezzling more than $5,000 of the grant funds during the period January 2012 through December 2013.

Bermudez also admitted to making and subscribing a false 2011 income tax return, in that Bermudez failed to report approximately $135,503.61 in 2011 income from VICARE.

The case was investigated by HUD Office of Inspector General, HHS Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations.

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim L. Chisholm and Meredith Edwards.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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