The criminal case against three men accused of embezzling millions in federal funding to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been dismissed, but the prosecutors and defendants are still pursuing appeals in V.I. Supreme Court.
The men — Jerris Browne, former director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Gregory Christian, former Management Information Systems administrator for Motor Vehicles, and Syed Gilani, president of BIZVI — were charged in June 2017 with several crimes, including embezzlement and a variety of fraud charges, as well as an alleged violation of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
After more than two years, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case on Feb. 10, which V.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy granted on Feb. 14.
V.I. Attorney General Denise George did not respond to questions about why prosecutors chose not to bring the case to trial. Molloy ordered that the defendants’ bail be exonerated, rendering them free men.
But he dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that prosecutors could still refile charges at some point in the future.
The defendants appealed, and Molloy issued a subsequent opinion on March 13, upholding the dismissal without prejudice, which defendants are also appealing to the V.I. Supreme Court.
In addition to the dismissal, Molloy had also issued an opinion in February scolding prosecutors for essentially letting the case fall through the cracks.
While Molloy had fined Quincy McRae, chief of the St. Thomas Criminal Division for the V.I. Justice Department, the judge subsequently found that McRae “genuinely believed that he was no longer counsel of record in this case,” and agreed to hold the $250 fine in suspension.
Molloy further ordered that as a supervisory attorney in the V.I. Justice Department, McRae must develop a formal plan with his colleagues “to ensure what occurred here — several public attorneys ‘disappeared’ without notice and without designating successor counsel — does not happen again.”
McRae has appealed that opinion to the V.I. Supreme Court, and asked the justices to decide a number of issues pursuant to V.I. case law: the 1954 Revised Organic Act, and the U.S. Constitution, including whether Molloy had the authority to hold him in civil contempt.
The $2 million in federal funding that Browne, Christian, and Gilani are charged with stealing was granted between 2008 and 2011 to help the BMV become compliant with the Real ID Act. Passed by Congress in 2005, the law establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, and its implementation in the Virgin Islands was repeatedly delayed.
The BMV announced in August that residents can now obtain Real ID- compliant identification in the territory.
Beginning Oct. 1, every traveler must present a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, or another acceptable form of identification — such as a passport — to fly within the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security website.