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HomeNewsArchivesCOURTS REJECT EMBEZZLEMENT FIGURE'S APPEALS

COURTS REJECT EMBEZZLEMENT FIGURE'S APPEALS

July 18, 2002 – One of two St. Thomas women convicted in connection with the embezzlement of about $1.7 million from a Little Switzerland store is back in custody, having lost appeals before the appellate division of U.S. District Court and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lydia Magras, also known as Lydia Greaux, was remanded to the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix on July 12 on an order issued by Territorial Court Judge Ishmael A. Meyers. He acted upon learning that the 33-month sentence he imposed more than a year ago had been affirmed by both courts of appeal.
The other woman, Lorraine Quetel, is serving a six-year-sentence at Golden Grove after striking a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Magras, who was the owner of the now defunct Bon Voyage Travel agency, was charged with knowingly depositing money embezzled by Quetel into a travel agency account in order to keep and conceal the funds. She entered a plea of no contest to a single count of compounding the crime of embezzlement and was sentenced to three months less than the three-year maximum prison term.
On appeal, Magras's attorneys argued that the statute wrongly included within its reach a defendant who was unaware that the funds had been embezzled, that it was vague and unconstitutional, and that the sentence she received was unduly harsh for a first, non-violent offense. The three-judge panel, consisting of District Court Judges Raymond Finch and Thomas K. Moore and Territorial Court Judge Edgar D. Ross, ruled last Dec. 10 that Magras's constitutional rights were not violated and that Meyers did not abuse his discretion when he sentenced Magras to 33 months in prison.
In May, Magras's attorneys went before the 3rd Circuit court, arguing before the three-judge panel that the territory’s "compounding a crime" statute was unconstitutional, violating her First Amendment right of association, Fourth Amendment right of privacy and Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. On June 7, the circuit court upheld the District Court ruling.
The embezzlement scheme was uncovered in late 1997. Quetel entered a guilty plea on Jan. 29, 1998, and authorities obtained an arrest warrant for Magras that same day. The government filed 26 charges against Magras; in her plea bargain, all but the "compounding the crime" charge were dropped in exchange for her pleading no contest to that charge, which has the effect of a guilty plea.
In both appeals, Magras was represented by attorneys Treston Moore and Charles Russell. Arguing for the government was Assistant Attorney General Maureen Pehlan Cormier.

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