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Thursday, August 11, 2022


Former V.I. senator John Tutein, a vice president in St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser's Innovative Communication Corp., was arrested Friday on federal bribery charges, apparently in connection with the failed Prosser-V.I. government swap of land for tax breaks on St. Croix.
According to U.S. Attorney James Hurd, Tutein, 41, was arrested on a District Court warrant for allegedly offering a bribe to an unnamed Virgin Islands senator in exchange for the senator's support of legislation favoring ICC.
On May 21, during Senate deliberations on the proposed ICC-government deal, Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus accused Tutein of having offered him an envelope full of $100 bills last October in exchange for support on an upcoming issue. Tutein denied the accusations.
At the same Senate hearing, Petrus stated his belief that other senators had also been offered, and had accepted, bribes. Petrus could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe said the affidavit in support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's bribery complaint against Tutein did not identify the senator in question.
James Weber, the FBI's special agent in charge, could not be reached Friday to comment on whether any senators are being investigated for allegedly having accepted bribes.
The complaint against Tutein charges that within the period of Oct. 1, 1998, through Feb. 5, 1999, he offered a bribe to a V.I. senator "in connection with the business, transaction, and series of transactions of the Virgin Islands government."
Under the proposed ICC-government land transaction, Prosser's company would have purchased about 2,800 acres of land on St. Croix's northwest shore for approximately $30 million. Prosser would have turned over to the V.I. government 1,000 acres of improved, subdivided land, with the intention that it be given to government workers in lieu of some $200 million they are owed in retroactive wages.
Prosser also offered to give the government nearly $10 million for public projects to be built on all three islands.
In return, Prosser would have received full tax breaks for 10 of his companies for 30 years. The deal was valued by various sources at anywhere from $180 million to $3.5 billion.
The controversial proposal was considered by Gov. Charles Turnbull, then pulled by Prosser after intense criticism from the community. However, the deal was revived and approved 8-7 in the Senate. During those deliberations Petrus made his accusations, but the proposal was eventually vetoed by Turnbull.
Neither Tutein nor ICC spokesman Edwin Crouch could be reached for comment Friday evening. Prosser is out of the territory.
U.S. Attorney Mabe said the District Court has jurisdiction because the V.I. government receives more than $10,000 in federal funds annually.
"That's the nexus for this being a federal offense," he said.
The maximum penalty for bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Tutein had his initial court appearance Friday and was released on $10,000 bail. Mabe said a preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 1 in District Court on St. Thomas.

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