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Former VICARE Director Celeste Bermudez Faces 10 Years In Prison After Stealing Money Intended For AIDS Patients

GUILTY: Celeste Bermudez

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A St. Croix woman admitted in federal court today to stealing $5,000 that was earmarked to help people with HIV-AIDS.

Celeste P. Bermudez, 41, formerly of St. Croix, pleaded guilty to theft of federal program funds and making and subscribing a false income tax return, Acting U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett said.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez allowed Bermudez to remain on bail until August 1, 2017, when she must self-surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service, Hewlett said.

Bermudez’s sentencing is scheduled for August 8, 2017.

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, 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 admitted to embezzling more than $5,000 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 $135,783.29 in 2011 income from VICARE.

Bermudez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the federal program fraud charge, and not more than three years in prison or a $5,000 fine, or both, for the tax charge.

She is a graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) who formerly worked for the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA).

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.

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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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