A deal could be in the works for Balbo Construction owner Gerard Castor, who might be pleading “no contest” next month to charges of tax evasion, fraud and perjury.
Castor, along with former Internal Revenue Bureau director Louis “Lolo” Willis, turned himself in earlier this year and initially entered a plea of not guilty.
Both were arrested on Valentine’s Day. The charges against Willis include one count each of conspiracy to evade or defeat taxes, fraud and providing false statements. Both men are looking at fines of no more than $10,000 and/or five years in prison for each tax charge, and similar fines and up to three years in prison for the fraudulent statements/perjury charges.
The case took a turn Monday in V.I. Superior Court after it appeared that Castor intended to change his plea, but a back and forth between defense and prosecuting attorneys forced the matter to be postponed until Nov. 14.
In court, prosecuting attorneys contended that entering a plea of “no contest” meant the same as guilty and said they would be willing to consider a plea deal if it resulted in a conviction of Castor. Defense attorney Darren John-Baptiste disagreed, however, and argued that “no contest” should not have “the same effect.”
Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston gave both sides more time to work it out and, in the meantime, Willis has filed a motion to have his case dismissed and moved over to the District Court, where he is already fighting bribery and extortion charges.
According to court documents, most of the local charges date back to Willis’s time as IRB director, when he allegedly helped issue Balbo Construction tax clearance letters even though the company was delinquent on its filings and payments.
The documents state that Balbo had not filed a corporate tax return from 1997 to 2000, owed a balance on its 1998 gross receipts tax returns, and had not filed gross receipts tax returns in 1999 and 2000, among other things.
After leaving IRB, Willis was also allegedly hired by Castor to prepare Balbo’s delinquent returns – dating back to 1998. According to the affidavit, Willis "understated" 27 returns for a total $2.9 million, leaving the government with a more than $118,000 liability.
During an initial hearing in February, Willis and Castor were allowed to post 10 percent of the $75,000 bail recommended by the government or a property bond that could satisfy the bail requirement. Both have since posted bail but the rest of the terms and conditions, such as having the men surrender their travel documents, still apply while they’re out on bail.
Both have until April 4 to change their pleas.