GRINCH! Dorothea Man Charged With Trying To Sell Jet Ski Back To Owner … 3 Days Before Christmas: VIPD
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A dispute over a personal watercraft has led to a 61-year-old St. Thomas man facing criminal charges.
Omar Brown Jr., of Estate Dorothea was arrested on a warrant Thursday and charged with grand larceny, appropriation of lost property and receipt or possession of stolen property, Superior Court documents indicate. Brown was released after posting property to secure a $25,000 bond, and appeared in court today for his advice-of-rights hearing.
The dispute that led to Brown’s arrest began on December 22, when the captain of the yacht Rock 13 filed a police report, saying he was being extorted for the return of his missing personal watercraft, according to an affidavit filed by Virgin Islands Police Department.
The captain told police that the watercraft had been tied to Rock 13 while the yacht was at anchor in Magens Bay, and his crew members noticed the personal watercraft missing just after 4:25 a.m. December 22. The crew conducted a search and notified the U.S. Coast Guard, according to court documents.
A few hours after the crew noticed the watercraft missing, the captain said he was contacted by Brown, who said he was in possession of the watercraft and they agreed to meet that afternoon to discuss a possible reward, according to the police affidavit.
At the meeting, Brown “demanded $6,000 for the return of the jet ski,” while the captain countered with an offer of $1,000 “for his assistance in recovering the jet ski,” according to the affidavit. Brown “refused to return” the personal watercraft and told the captain “that he would accept no less than $4,000 if he wanted it back.”
VIPD Police Detective Brian Bedminster of the Criminal Investigation Bureau wrote in the affidavit that he interviewed Brown, who said he had noticed the personal watercraft adrift from his home in Dorothea, and told his son to go retrieve it.
Brown told the detective he notified the Coast Guard and V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) that he had recovered the personal watercraft, and that when he met with the yacht’s captain, “he was insulted by the low reward amount offered,” and “he explained that ‘those white people will pay’ and that he demanded $4,000 for the return of the Jet Ski,” according to the affidavit.
Brown declined to speak further and told police he would contact his attorney, Arturo Watlington.
Bedminster said he received a call from Watlington, “who introduced himself as Mr. Brown’s cousin and that he was acting as Mr. Brown’s legal counsel,” according to the affidavit. “Attorney Watlington then started a one-sided conversation in a very belligerent manner and interrupted when I attempted to explain the facts of the investigation.
“Attorney Watlington stated that the police need to stay out of this.” Bedminster said he contacted Watlington again “and he stated that the property belongs to his client now,” and he received a call from DPNR staff on Jan. 7 “and learned that Mr. Brown was attempting to register the jet ski in his name, as his property,” according to the affidavit.
The captain had provided police a receipt for $10,043 proving ownership of the personal watercraft.
“The policeman lied,” Watlington told The Virgin Islands Daily News.
Watlington said Bedminster denied that he was accusing Brown of stealing the jet ski, and Watlington spoke to his supervisor, Sgt. Dwight Griffith and Deputy Chief Richard Velasquez about the matter.
Watlington took exception to the officer’s characterization of his tone as “belligerent,” and said Brown — who owns the property in Dorothea housing 13 Restaurant and Nidal minimart — legally took possession of the personal watercraft when he found it adrift.
“Any motor vessel found abandoned is the property of whoever retrieves it, and I spoke to him briefly and I told him how can he accuse him of extortion and it’s not a police issue. So seemingly, the police is using this thing as an issue to try to negotiate on behalf of the person,” Watlington said.
Watlington said the matter is a civil dispute and the only outstanding issue is negotiation of a recovery fee, “which is normal in the marine industry,” and should be resolved without the intervention of law enforcement.
“My understanding is this is a big thing. The governor is involved, the police commissioner is involved, the DPNR commissioner is involved,” Watlington said. “ I’m dumbfounded by these charges.”
Brown is scheduled to appear for arraignment on February 5.
Brown was arrested by members of the Criminal Investigation Bureau for an offense that took place at Magen’s Bay beach between 1:30-2:15 p.m. on December 22, 2020, according to the VIPD.
Brown was originally charged with “extortion,” but that charge was changed to “grand larceny” prior to his arrest this week, police said.
The news of Brown’s arrest was posted to Twitter at 11:22 a.m. today.
All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this news article are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.