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FEDERAL GRAND JURY: Celeste Bermudez Must Go To Trial To Explain $300K In Missing HIV-AIDS Funds

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A Virgin Islands grand jury, on January 12, 2017, returned a six-count indictment against Celeste P. Bermudez, 41, of Methuen, Massachusetts, charging her with theft of federal program funds, money laundering, and making and subscribing a false income tax return, U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe announced.

Bermudez made her initial appearance on January 15, 2017, and was arraigned on the charges, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller, Sharpe said.

Judge Miller set bail conditions for Bermudez, who has been released from custody pending trial.

According to the indictment, 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, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved approximately $1.3 million in grant funds to VICARE. During the period July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded VICARE approximately $627,365 in grant funds.

Bermudez, is charged with embezzling approximately $293,710 during the period January 2012 through December 2013.

The indictment also charges Bermudez with engaging in monetary transactions in financial institutions with the embezzled funds, as well as making and subscribing a false 2011 income tax return.

If convicted, Bermudez faces maximum sentences of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the federal program fraud and money laundering counts, and not more than three years in prison or a $5,000 fine for the tax count.

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

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Chisholm and Meredith Edwards.

Sharpe said that an indictment is a merely a formal charging document and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty,” Sharpe said.

READY FOR MORE ‘WORK’: Celeste Bermuduz social media listing at LinkedIn seeking a new job.

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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 40 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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