Senator Anne Golden Gets 2 Years In Prison For Stealing $300,000 In Taxpayer Money
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy sentenced former Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden to two years in prison on Thursday for her role in stealing nearly $300,000 for luxury trips and extravagant shopping sprees — all paid for with taxpayer funds.
The 24-month sentence includes time served, and means that Golden, who has already spent seven months incarcerated at Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since mid-January, will serve another 16.5 months in prison.
Golden, 60, pleaded guilty to two charges — theft from a program receiving federal funds — and willful failure to file a tax return. The former Anna’s Hope, St. Croix native has about a year and a half left to serve in prison.
But Golden and co-defendant Stephanie Barnes were charged with numerous other crimes in July after Virgin Islands Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt conducted a “forensic” audit of the commission’s finances between 2013 and 2016.
Van Beverhoudt found that hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer’s money had been spent on luxury trips and personal expenses, including visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando, limousine rides to and from “Hamilton” the Broadway play in New York City, $282.11 on cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory in Atlanta and expensive vacations to St. Kitts and Las Vegas for her and her lover.
According to Van Beverhoudt, Golden charged everything from — baby carrots from Seaside Market & Deli in Estate Mount Welcome to fancy dinners at Savant restaurant in Gallows Bay — to taxpayers. Cases of Elephant Beer from Denmark and Heineken Beer from Holland were also generously added to the tab.
Barnes, a former Michigan real estate agent, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. The former romantic interest of Golden faces a federal jury trial scheduled to begin on September 28.
Judge Molloy also ordered Golden to pay restitution.
According to public documents filed in the case, Golden admitted to diverting nearly $300,000 in Commission funds for her own personal benefit and the benefit of others through bank wires, writing Commission checks, and using Commission credit cards.
In addition, Golden failed to timely file an income tax return, despite earning an annual salary of $105,000.
U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert praised the Office of the Virgin Islands Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigations and the FBI for their important work in this investigation.
“Territorial and federal investigators have worked tirelessly to expose this serious abuse of the public trust,” Shappert said. “We hope that yesterday’s sentencing will remind everyone that pubic officials are not above the law.”
Golden was taken into custody on January 14, 2020, following pleading guilty to two charges in U.S. District Court in St. Thomas. She has been in official federal custody in Puerto Rico since that time.
“High-ranking officials perpetrating a fraud scheme by utilizing funds from the Government of the Virgin Islands betray the public’s trust,” Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma, of IRS Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office, said. “We are all responsible for abiding by the tax laws, regardless of anyone’s position of authority. Choosing not to file a tax return is a crime punishable by law. The IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating individuals who violate their tax responsibilities. IRS-CI, with assistance from the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will continue our collective efforts to enforce the law and foster public trust.”
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of the Virgin Islands Inspector General and IRS Criminal Investigations.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nathan Brooks.
Golden proudly served at least two terms as an elected Republican Senator on St. Ctoix.
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