The former governor of the US Virgin Islands was arrested in late August for embezzling public funds, according to the acting attorney general of Jamaica.
General Claude Walker announced the arrest of former Governor John de Jongh. He has been accused by the US government of using $490,000 of US taxpayer money to pay for home improvements of his residence. The alleged embezzlement is believed to have occurred between 2007-9.
It has been known for many years that de Jongh was using US Virgin Island funds for highway upgrades to pay for security improvements around his private home when he was governor.
When he became governor in 2007, he decided to live in his own house rather than the governor’s mansion. He stated that renovating the mansion for his family would have cost over $2 million, so he argued that staying in his home would save taxpayer money.
However, the US Interior Department Office of the Inspector General stated in 2010 that his use of taxpayer funds to pay for upgrades to his home was circumventing the authority of the US Congress.
Earlier in 2015, the ex-governor stated that he was going to pay back $200,000 to the territory for the upgrades to his house. He said that he arrived at that figure by looking at the value of the security improvements to his home, and by subtracting the cost of a guardhouse that is no longer used.
Lawmakers have demanded that he pay back all of the money he used from taxpayers; they argue that he owes double of what he has paid back.
de Jongh has stated publicly that his decision to use taxpayer funds in the way he did was open and public but he wished he had gone about it differently. He noted that he was focused on trying to assemble a government at that time, and he was not focusing on the details of how the taxpayer funds were being used on his home.
Being convicted of embezzlement of US taxpayer funds can be punished by a fine of $10,000 and a prison term of 10 years. The ex-official also faces extortion, bribery and conspiracy charges.
The corruption charges extend far beyond the Virgin Island government and go to the highest levels of the US Justice Department.
Embezzlement, which involves the theft or misappropriation of funds that have been entrusted to you, is one of the most common white collar crimes.
Generally, three things must be proven for someone to be convicted of embezzlement:
- The person has to have been in a position of power and trust while getting control of the money or property in question.
- The property has to have been converted so that the proper owner could not use it.
- The defendant must have intentionally deprived the person of his or her property.
Many embezzlement cases involve an employee embezzling funds from an employer. However, some embezzlement cases do involve government officials embezzling taxpayer funds.