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One-Man ‘V.I. Corruption Wrecking Ball’ … U.S. Atty Ronald Sharpe … Submits His Resignation To President Trump As Requested


CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Just days after the most powerful U.S. Attorney in the country — Preet Bharara of New York — defied President Donald Trump’s demand that he submit his resignation — the U.S. Attorney for the territory said that he will comply with the request.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe said on Monday that his resignation became effective midnight on March 10, 2017. Sharpe has ably served as United States Attorney for the U.S. Virgin Islands since September 2009.

“To serve as United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands has been the highest honor of my professional career,” Sharpe said. “Every day, I was inspired by the dedication of the attorneys and members of the United States Attorney’s Office, to do my best to represent the residents of the Virgin Islands and defend the rule of law. I am extremely proud of the work the United States Attorney’s Office has accomplished in and out of the courtroom, including building meaningful bonds of trust with the community we serve. I am confident that the extraordinary professionals of the United States Attorney’s Office will remain tirelessly devoted to the pursuit of justice on behalf of the residents of the Virgin Islands and our great nation.”

Sharpe, a graduate of Tulane University and Stanford Law School, began his career with the U.S. Department of Justice in 1995, serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia. Sharpe had previously served as First Assistant United States Attorney in the District of the Virgin Islands.

During his tenure as United States Attorney, Sharpe served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC), and on several subcommittees of the AGAC, including the Borders and Immigration Subcommittee and the Environmental Crimes Working Group. Sharpe also served as the chairperson of the Puerto Rico/USVI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program.

When he assumed the role of United States Attorney, Sharpe designated the top priorities of the District, including aggressively fighting public corruption, which historically has challenged law enforcement’s efforts to effectively address crime in the Virgin Islands.

This focus led to significant prosecutions that have enabled federal and local law enforcement and other government institutions operating in the Virgin Islands to enforce the rule of law and strengthen their resistance to continued corruption.

Some of the significant public corruption cases handled by the office over the past seven years include:

• Roberto Tapia, a former Director of Environmental Enforcement for the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), was sentenced to 70 months in prison for using DPNR as a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal drug trafficking activities including the possession and trafficking of numerous kilos of cocaine.

• Louis “Lolo” Willis, the former Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Legislature, was sentenced to five years in prison for federal programs bribery and extortion under color of official right for accepting bribes from contractors.

• Alvin Williams, Jr., a former St. Thomas senator, was sentenced to 52 months in prison in connection with his guilty plea to racketeering, that is, operating and participating in a criminal enterprise whose members and associates engaged in illegal activities including bribing a Virgin Islands public official, soliciting and receiving bribes from numerous St. Thomas construction project developers, fraudulently soliciting and increasing staff members’ salaries, and using the increase of funds for his personal use.

• Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) Captain Enrique Saldana, VIPD Sergeant George Green and civilian Luis Roldan were found guilty of the federal charges of conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion, and the Virgin Islands charges of conspiratorial extortion, extortion under color of official right, conflict of interest and solicitation and receipt of a bribe. Greene was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment and Saldana was sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment. Prior to sentencing, Roldan was murdered.

• Former VIPD officers Enid Edwards and Francis Brooks were sentenced to 151 months in prison for operating a criminal enterprise (“RICO”) as well as federal and territorial crimes related to extortion, bribery and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Former Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) officer Bill John-Baptiste was convicted of false imprisonment and kidnapping and sentenced to five years in prison.

Sharpe also made civil rights a priority in the Virgin Islands, focusing on removing barriers to access for persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). As a result of an investigation initiated by the United States Attorney’s Office, Caribbean Cinemas agreed to remedy potential violations of the ADA at its theaters by increasing accessible seating, making restrooms accessible and providing assisted-listening and closed-captioned systems for the hearing impaired.

With an emphasis on prevention, Sharpe helped foster a robust outreach program in the district. Projects included implementation of the United States Attorney’s Office Community Outreach Initiative, a series of community meetings throughout the Virgin Islands where members 3 of law enforcement and social services groups engage in an open forum to discuss how criminal activity affecting their community, especially gun violence, can best be addressed.

Participants in the Community Outreach Initiative included the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD), U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), Crime Stoppers, Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA), My Brothers Workshop and Weed & Seed St. Thomas and St. Croix. In addition, Sharpe encouraged greater community involvement, including a volunteer program with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Boys and Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.

A source close to Sharpe’s resignation said that his “hard-look exterior” belied a very, caring human being beneath his public persona.

“(Ronald) Sharpe wasn’t the kind of guy who could pop onto the Conan O’Brien (TV comedy) Show and make you laugh, but he wasn’t hired to do that,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They hired him to convict the bad guys and bust corrupt cops and politicians — and he definitely did that. For those who knew him personally, he was a great guy. He will be well-missed — and we can only hope that the next person installed into the position does half as good of a job as he did! When it came to bad guys — he was a one-man wrecking ball who took them down like clockwork — a lot of times with plea bargains because they knew that it would be worse to try to fight him in court.”

Technically, according to presidential precedent, Trump can decline to accept a resignation if he wants to keep a superior-performing person in the role they did so well for a jurisdiction.

The District of the Virgin Islands covers the Divisions of St. Thomas and St. John, and St. Croix. The United States Attorney’s Office has 15 attorneys and is responsible for conducting all criminal and civil litigation in the district involving the United States government.

SENATOR BUSTED! Former St. Thomas Sen. Alvin Williams was sentenced to 4.3 years in federal prison on a racketeering and official government corruption conviction after U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe laid out the groundwork of the case. Despite hiring one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the territory — Gordon C. Rhea of St. Croix — Williams became the first sitting senator of the Virgin Islands Legislature to be removed from office for committing a crime while on the job. The federal government alleged that Williams forced his employees to kick back to him a portion of their inflated salaries and coerced others to take online courses in his name to get “him” college degrees.

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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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