Pleading guilty to one federal racketeering charge Thursday in U.S. District Court on St. Thomas, former Sen. Alvin Williams admitted to bribery, extorting kickbacks from subordinates, tasking employees to do his schoolwork, and using his elected office to steer government contracts to his family company, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Williams was charged in November – along with two legislative staffers working directly under him: Garry Sprauve and Kim Blackett – with an array of federal and territorial racketeering and public corruption charges stemming from the actions Williams acknowledged committing Thursday.
On Jan. 14, Williams requested a hearing to change his plea as part of a deal worked out with prosecutors.
By pleading to the racketeering charge, Williams acknowledged actual, if not legal, guilt to all the charges, as the other offenses, all taken together, constituted the ongoing criminal enterprise, or racketeering, to which he confessed.
Around 10 a.m. on Thursday, Williams’ attorney, Gordon Rhea, led him to the lectern where Williams answered questions from U.S. District Judge Curtis Gomez.
U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist read aloud the actions Williams is accused of under the racketeering charge.
Lindquist said Williams’ family’s company, Ace Development, received a $134,000 check from the V.I. government contract and that Williams withdrew $24,000 almost immediately afterward. The same day of the withdrawal, Williams attempted to give Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls $10,000 in cash in an attempt to sway the commissioner to grant future work to Ace Development.
Williams and Sprauve together solicited a bribe from the developers of the Raphune Vista housing project on St. Thomas, in the form of campaign contributions, "leading the developer to believe maybe it was a legitimate campaign contribution," Lindquist said. Ten $10,000 checks, for a total of $100,000, were written from the developer to Williams’ campaign, Lindquist said.
Urbanika International Housing, chaired by Carlos Cacciamani, was the developer of Raphune Vistas, according to numerous news accounts in the Source and other news outlets at the time. Cacciamani testified to the V.I. Legislature on the Raphune Vista development Aug. 12, 2008. (See related links below.)
Williams corruptly promoted legislative action and supported funding and zoning for the project, in exchange for which Ace Development got a contract for Raphune Vista construction work and rented construction equipment to the developers, Lindquist said. Ace received around $789,000 for the work, he said.
Williams also allegedly solicited and received a $10,000 and a $25,000 bribe – both in the form of campaign contributions – from the developers of the Tutu Park Mall windmill power generating project between Sept. 2008 and Sept. 2009, in exchange for Williams’ promoting legislation supporting the project.
In 2010 Williams proposed to a staff member giving the staffer a $24,000 per year pay raise, "under an arrangement where the staff member would retain a piece of the increase and give the rest to Williams," Lindquist said. "The staff member declined. Shortly afterwards, Williams made the proposal to another staffer, Garry Sprauve, who accepted," Lindquist said. A total of $17,790 was drawn by Sprauve in 21 payments and "Sprauve retained a portion while the defendant took most of it," Lindquist said.
Williams also had a staffer tasked full time doing his online classwork for the University of Phoenix. That staffer left, whereupon Williams directed Blackett to do it, and that became Blackett’s primary occupation as an employee of the Legislature, according to Lindquist.
"Is what the government said true and accurate?" Gomez asked Williams.
"Yes, your honor," Williams answered.
Gomez asked how Williams pleaded to the one racketeering charge.
"I plead guilty, your honor," Williams said.
Gomez scheduled a sentencing hearing for Williams on April 25 at 9:30 a.m. and the court adjourned.
If convicted of all the charges, nine counts in total, Williams faced a maximum of 80 years imprisonment and $568,000 in penalties. Exact details of the plea agreement remain under seal at present, but for the single count of racketeering to which Williams pleaded guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a potential fine of $250,000.
In his change of plea request, Williams wrote that in exchange for the guilty plea, the "government will dismiss other counts, will bring no related charges, will recommend credit for acceptance of responsibility and will consider other recommendations."