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U.S. Virgin Islands Pair Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud Scheme: USAO

CHRISTIANSTED — United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced today that Nisha Brathwaite, 38, and Darlene Thompson, 37, both from the Virgin Islands and living on the mainland United States pled guilty on January 21, 2020 and January 24, 2020, respectively, to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

According to the plea agreement filed with the court, from January 2011 to July 2012, Brathwaite, Thompson and others participated in a scheme to steal money from the United States Treasury by fraudulently obtaining federal income tax refunds.

The scheme involved the acquisition of personal identifying information used to electronically file falsified tax returns for tax years 2010 and 2011.

According to court documents, Brathwaite, Thompson and eight coconspirators filed tax returns in individuals’ true names and actual social security numbers and dates of birth but falsified the individuals’ income earned, tax withholding amounts, credits, and other information, and thereby claimed refunds to which they were not entitled.

They designated bank accounts for receipt of the refunds, which, once received, they then withdrew and spent for personal use. As a result of the scheme, $35,555 was designated to Brathwaite’s bank account, of which $29,009 was actually deposited therein; further, $54,460 was designated to Thompson’s account of which $38,881 was actually deposited therein.

Of ten defendants charged in the tax fraud scheme, Brathwaite and Thompson are the sixth and seventh to plead guilty. Five others have entered guilty pleas one of whom has been sentenced.

Sentencing dates for Brathwaite and Thompson have been set for May 21, 2020 and May 12, 2020 respectively. The remaining three defendants are pending a new trial date.

Brathwaite and Thompson each face a maximum sentence of ten years and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations.

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alphonso Andrews, Jr. and Melissa Ortiz.

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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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