Lydia Cabret, a former 30-year employee of the V.I. Port Authority, was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for embezzling $213,098.58 from the agency, although all but six months of the sentence were suspended.
Cabret, 54, of La Grande Princesse, stood before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady Wednesday morning on St. Croix to be sentenced. Brady, who told Cabret that her “pattern of self-serving dishonesty and thievery from the people of the Virgin Islands cannot go unpunished and the people must understand that government employees must honor the trust placed on them,” imposed a five-year prison sentence with all but six months suspended, four years’ supervised probation and standard fees and court costs.
Cabret was also ordered to pay full restitution to VIPA, failing which, judgment will be entered against her.
According to a news release from the V.I. Department of Justice, special agents with the department arrested Cabret on Nov. 12, 2015 on a warrant signed by V.I. Superior Court Judge Miguel Camacho. Cabret was charged with one count each of embezzlement of public accounts, violating the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, obtaining money by false pretenses and unauthorized use of a government credit card after investigations revealed that Cabret used her government-issued credit card to make multiple purchases over a 14-month period. She subsequently pleaded guilty to embezzlement of public accounts.
An affidavit filed by Special Agent Leonardo Carrion contains the following details:
VIPA accounting officials noticed multiple unauthorized transactions on the account statements for the credit card issued to Cabret, which caused the accounting officials to become suspicious and look further into the matter. An investigation revealed that between Feb. 20, 2014 and June 29, 2014, numerous cash advances not authorized by VIPA were made with the credit card issued to Cabret.
On Nov. 10, 2015, a VIPA internal auditor told investigators that Cabret was questioned about the numerous questionable charges and cash advances made with credit card and Cabret admitted to using the credit card for personal uses.
“I just want to make it right for all parties concerned and do my best to pay back everything I took,” Cabret told the court at her sentencing.
Cabret, who was free on bail awaiting sentencing, was ordered to report to the Bureau of Corrections Friday morning to begin serving her term of imprisonment.
Assistant Attorney General Tiffany McLean argued the case for the prosecution.
V.I. Attorney General Claude E.Walker said the sentence sends a message.
“It seems that there’s a real problem with persons misusing government credit or debit cards to pay for personal expenses,” Walker said in the news release announcing the sentencing. “This one uses the card to buy jewelry; that one takes it to pay for a vacation. In this case, the defendant used a government credit card to pay for a number of personal items, including to buy car parts for a Mercedes, pay WAPA bills, and purchase items on Amazon. It has to stop. It’s getting disgusting now and I’m completely fed up with this stuff.”
Walker said this type of conduct only serves to hurt the people of the Virgin Islands.
“What we have to remember is that ultimately, these funds belong to the people of the Virgin Islands. So, the people are paying these bills,” Walker said. “VIPA’s governing board and management have made it clear that such conduct will no longer be tolerated at VIPA because it’s a poor reflection on the organization and its dedicated employees.”