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VING Commander Who Stole $71,345 Gets 1 Year In Prison From Visiting Federal Judge

CHRISTIANSTED — A St. Croix woman who presented herself as a top Virgin Islands National Guard commander and a local fashion model was sentenced to one year in prison after being convicted of 48 counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government money.

Aesha Rivers, 44, of St. Croix, was sentenced on January 10, 2020, after being convicted by a federal jury of 48 counts of wire fraud; one count of theft of government money; and one count of false statement to government, United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

The jury trial began on April 30, 2019 and ended on May 2, 2019. Visiting Judge Anne E. Thompson sentenced Rivers to 12 months and a day in prison, to be followed by three-year term of supervised release, and a special assessment of $5,000.

Rivers was also ordered to make restitution to the Virgin Islands National Guard in the amount of $71,345.93.

According to trial testimony, Rivers was a Virgin Islands National Guard member who applied for and received Overseas Housing Allowance (“OHA”) proceeds between June 1, 2011, and June 30, 2015, for a residence she purchased on St. Croix, for which she held a mortgage through Flagstar Bank.

The OHA program is a reimbursement-based program intended to help defray the higher cost of housing for National Guard members located in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

In order to receive OHA proceeds, the National Guard member must submit and certify an application as well as provide documentation to support either an existing rental agreement or HUD-1 to validate an existing mortgage.

Annual recertification is also required. Rivers stopped making her mortgage payments to Flagstar by March 1, 2012, and a foreclosure motion for default judgment was granted to Flagstar on March 18, 2014.

Rivers failed to notify the Virgin Islands National Guard of her changed circumstances as to her housing expenses, as required. In addition, she falsely recertified her OHA eligibility annually.

As a result, Rivers fraudulently received OHA proceeds through the electronic transfer of funds into her USAA checking account until June 30, 2015.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Rivers fraudulently received $71,345.93 from the OHA program.

The U.S. Army CID – Major Procurement Fraud Unit and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston prosecuted the case.

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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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