• Sat. May 21st, 2022

Barnes seeks acquittal or new trial in Casino Control Commission robbery case

ByChad J. Johnson

Apr 2, 2022

The former Casino Control Commission consultant convicted in December of robbing the government is seeking an acquittal or a new trial, saying she was an unwitting victim of her boss’ outrageous spending.

Stephanie Barnes (photo from source file)

Stephanie Barnes was found guilty by a jury on December 23 in the VI District Court of St. Croix of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds, receiving government property and filing false statements of income. She has been incarcerated since December 27 and is expected to be sentenced on May 19, when she faces up to 10 years in prison.

In a motion filed Thursday in District VI Court, Barnes alleges that any fraud or theft that took place was the work of Violet Anne Golden, the former head of the Casino Control Commission who pleaded guilty to having embezzled $295,503 of public funds in January 2020. Under her plea agreement, Golden was sentenced to 24 months behind bars in August of that year and was released in September 2021. She testified at Barnes’ trial on behalf of the accusation.

Former Casino Review Board chairwoman Violet Ann Golden testifies as chairwoman before the Senate in 2015. (File photo by Barry Leerdam, The VI Legislature)
Violet Anne Golden (source file photo)

According to court records, Golden and Barnes spent money intended for agency operations on lavish travel, clothing, entertainment and other unapproved items after Golden hired Barnes in 2015 to develop programs for people with a gambling addiction.

The U.S. attorney’s office said the expenses included a charter plane and VIP passes to the St. Kitts music festival, trips to casino-related conferences “to enjoy luxurious hotel stays with meals and room service at upscale locations such as the Ritz Carlton Hotel,” excursions to Disney World in Florida and seeing “Hamilton” on Broadway in New York.

“In total, the evidence establishes that Barnes received Casino Commission salary and benefits totaling more than $600,000 over approximately three years,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Irregularities in spending and administrative functions were uncovered by an investigation by Inspector General VI in 2018, which led to an FBI referral. Golden and Barnes were charged on July 11, 2019, and arrested a week later.

However, Barnes alleges in her motion that not only did Golden operate without any oversight from her fellow commissioners and staff, but that she had also been doing so since 2013, when she became president — two years before she was hired. Barnes.

“The evidence clearly shows that Golden was using the Commission accounts as his personal accounts from 2013 onwards,” giving large sums of money to family and friends, staying in expensive hotels and flying first class, says the motion.

“There is no evidence that Barnes ever used a VICCC credit card or wrote a check from a VICCC account, unlike … other executive directors who write checks to themselves. Golden also admitted to maxing out about twelve personal credit cards before gaining full and exclusive access to VICCC accounts, where she asked the bank to issue credit cards for herself, other VICCC commissioners and the executive director. However, Golden controlled the statements and denied the Executive Director and other commissioners access to them,” the motion reads.

If VICCC commissioners, the executive director and other employees close to Golden claimed they were unaware of what she was doing, how did Barnes, a non-public employee, “know more about drinking habits? and Golden’s behavior than those who were paid? “by the government to find out,” the motion reads.

“The government failed to establish an agreement between Barnes and Golden to defraud the United States government, or that Barnes knew Golden was embezzling government money to pay Barnes or make unauthorized expenses,” according to the motion.

When Barnes had to travel to complete his studies – first a master’s degree and then a doctorate, she says Golden agreed to fund when Barnes changed his focus from autism to problem gambling at the request of the president – Golden the accompanied her and her autistic son, the motion states.

It was Golden who scheduled other events they were to attend at government expense without Barnes’ knowledge or consent, he said.

“There is no evidence that Barnes had any information that Golden had a VICCC credit card and was making unauthorized charges to VICCC accounts for travel, hotel, personal purchases, etc. .”, depending on the query. “Thus, there was no evidence of a conspiracy.”

As for Barnes’ conviction for filing a false tax return, the motion again blames Golden for any subterfuge.

While Golden testified at Barnes’ trial that Barnes asked her to cut her 1099’s income in 2016 because she didn’t have the money to pay taxes on the true amount, Barnes says in her motion that this is simply not true.

“Barnes was aware of the discrepancy in the 1099 provided to him by Golden. Barnes questioned Golden about the discrepancy. Golden informed Barnes by letter that VICCC needed to review a number of tax documents and that there would have an amendment to his 1099,” the motion reads.

Unable to get her business license because she still hadn’t filed her 2016 tax return, Barnes consulted her accountant and the IRB and was told she had to file the return and that she would have three years to correct any discrepancies, according to the motion. “Based on the advice given to him, Barnes filed his 2016 tax return in 2018 with the understanding that it would be corrected once the VICCC issued the corrected 1099,” he said.

“Interestingly, the evidence showed Barnes paid gross receipts out of his 2016 earnings and even left an overpayment to the IRB. Although Barnes was aware that VICCC had given and filed her an erroneous 1099 with the IRB for the year 2016, she nevertheless paid the correct amount out of gross receipts,” the motion states.

“The evidence is clear that Golden acted alone and used others, who knew nothing of her criminal activity or knew that the expenses she was incurring were unauthorized,” according to the petition.

When the Office of Inspector General VI began its audit, and Barnes asked Golden why she was not cooperating with the investigation, “Golden unequivocally told Barnes that she, Golden, was the CEO of VICCC and that Barnes should remain out of business. Barnes nevertheless continued to provide information obtained from Golden to the IG,” the petition states.

“Based on the foregoing, the Defendant respectfully requests the Court to enter a judgment of acquittal on the above counts or, failing that, to grant a new trial,” he said. declared.

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