The United States attorney for the Virgin Islands, James Hurd Jr., has put officials on notice that federal law enforcement efforts here are now being directed toward what he considers the No. 1 threat to the publics interest public corruption.
That's a priority he has communicated to his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno.
"The biggest priority in the Virgin Islands is public corruption and as far as Im concerned, that is the area that can have the biggest impact on improving the quality of life for Virgin Islanders," Hurd said to a round of applause.
He said the federal agencies have met with success so far.
"Weve had cases nobody thought we could get convictions on and there are more to come," he said.
Hurd did not elaborate on what was coming.
Hurd, the top federal prosecutor in the territory, told St. Thomas Rotarians at a weekly luncheon meeting Wednesday that more resources are being pumped into the effort to investigate public corruption cases, and that he expects results soon.
"We have doubled the number of FBI agents since I became U.S. attorney in this territory and we are going to have more as we do more cases," Hurd said. He did not specify how many agents are here now or how many are expected.
He asked for the communitys patience as "these are long-term cases" but said several program-fraud cases now under investigation could net "some grand jury indictments shortly."
He promised that the public will soon see the fruits of these long investigations "which have taken tremendous amounts of money and resources."
Hurd also disclosed the latest successful prosecution of environmental crimes — another crime category that he considers a major target — against a cruise ship line.
Hurd said Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was sentenced Monday to a $1 million fine, $500,000 of which is to be paid to the wildlife fund for use exclusively in the Virgin Islands. RCCL was convicted in 1999 of illegal dumping in the waters of more than a dozen locations, including the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"The V.I. will get half a million dollars for projects in the Virgin Islands," Hurd said.
Prosecuting environmental crimes has an immediate impact, he said. "Unlike other places where it is like spooning sand on a beach, if you make an impact on one big violator, you see an immediate impact on the local environment."