March 25, 2003 – Although charges were dismissed on Friday against a woman who had been arrested the day before and accused of stealing as much as $50,000 from the government, the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department employee will likely be arraigned a second time by the end of this week, according to Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Veronica Dalsia Parilla, 28, of Estate Grange, was arrested Thursday on embezzlement charges brought by the V.I. Inspector General's Office. The charges, involving the alleged theft of fees paid into the DLCA Taxi Division, where Parilla worked, stemmed from evidence uncovered in an investigation by the Inspector General's Office. (See "Licensing worker accused of stealing up to $50K".)
The charges were dropped on Friday morning after the Attorney General's Office told Territorial Judge Darryl Donohue that the lawyer who filed the charges was "unauthorized" to do so and asked that Donohue dismiss the case. The charges were dismissed "without prejudice," meaning they could be refiled under changed circumstances.
Stridiron said on Tuesday that Charles Allen, the Inspector General's Office legal counsel, prepared the affidavit leading to Parilla's arrest without his approval. Allen was named a "special assistant to the attorney general" in 2001 so that he could provide legal services on behalf of the White Collar Crime Task Force, which is a partnership between the two offices.
However, Stridiron said, "his services would be provided in that area only as authorized by the attorney general."
"I never authorized attorney Allen to provide any legal services or appear in court," Stridiron said. He said specific written authorization is required for a special assistant to represent the Attorney General's Office in court.
"We are going to recharge this woman after a quick investigation to determine whether all the facts and circumstances investigated by attorney Allen are accurate," Stridiron said.
In a release, Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt said his office made several calls — all unreturned — to Stridiron's office prior to Parilla's arrest, and "a determination was made to proceed."
The same procedure had been used in another case involving the DLCA last year in which Allen appeared in court as an assistant to the attorney general, Van Beverhoudt said. Stridiron said he does not know which case that was but would look into it.
Van Beverhoudt maintained on Monday that Allen acted properly last week in his capacity as a special assistant and charged that Stridiron's interference could be politically motivated.
"I have my suspicions as to what created the rift," van Beverhoudt said, adding that Stridiron "has not approached me with the problems he apparently has." The inspector general said he believes the attorney general's actions stem from the recent federal court case involving Global Resources Management.
Bypassing the bidding process, the V.I. government awarded a $3.6 million contract for sewage system repairs on St. Croix to GRM, a start-up company initially headed by a top aide to the governor. The integrity of that contracting process, which was investigated in part by the Inspector General's Office, was questioned by the U.S. attorney in District Court. A federal judge found that the awarding of the contract by the local government, represented by the Attorney General's Office, "reeked of politics."
"That's the only thing I can surmise," van Beverhoudt said. "It doesn't look good for the government of the Virgin Islands. We shouldn't be involved in this type of back-and-forth infighting."
But Stridiron pooh-poohed the suggestion that his decision in the DLCA embezzlement case was related to GRM and said his action was intended to protect residents' constitutional rights. "The whole business about GRM — that's bunk," he said.
Stridiron said cases need to go through the appropriate channels and that allowing the Parilla case to proceed outside such channels could set a dangerous precedent. "We are a community of laws, not of men," he said. "A person must be arrested and brought to trial by a duly authorized government entity."
Parilla's lawyer could have gotten the charges dismissed for good on a technicality, had the Attorney General's Office not moved swiftly on the issue, Stridiron said.
He said Allen's status as special assistant will be rescinded and he said he was "incensed" to learn that Allen had "taken it upon himself to do these things."
Van Beverhoudt said, however, that the affidavit for Parilla's arrest was prepared with the consultation and knowledge of the chief of the Justice Department's Criminal Division on St. Croix, and that an arrest warrant was obtained from Territorial Court.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.