U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John de Jongh’s chief of staff resigned on Monday after she and her husband were caught trying to use her position of influence to grant a company they created access to the territory’s lucrative tax breaks.
Pamela Berkowsky’s abrupt resignation comes less than a year after she took the job. She had served in the deputy chief of staff position since 2007, before taking the leadership role last October. In a statement announcing Berkowsky’s resignation, de Jongh did not say why she was suddenly leaving, but local new media outlets caught Berkowsky and her husband with the tax break scheme late last week.
Berkowsky’s husband is the manager of JaminDoodle Productions, LLC, which partnered with VI 4D, LLLP to quietly apply for Economic Development Corporation tax breaks to build a 4-D theater for Virgin Islands tourists. With the tax breaks, VI 4d with JaminDoodle Productions would hardly have had to pay taxes on what the money they made at the theater. Berkowsky was the settlor of the PBB Blind Trust — which is managed by an independent trustee and owns 49 percent of JaminDoodle.
Local bloggers at Crucians in Focus and DemManSay.com spotted the funny business. “[H]ey, when you’re the governor’s chief of staff and your husband is a doctor, leases and zoning and tax benefits are just more advantages of the chosen few,” Crucians in Focus wrote.
In his statement about Berkowsky’s resignation, de Jongh ignored that perceived impropriety.
“I thank Pam for her tremendous service to our territory over the past six years,” de Jongh said, “During which time she has been a devoted and hardworking public servant on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.”
Berkowsky’s resignation amid the tax break plan is the second scandal to rock de Jongh’s office. In February, The Daily Caller unearthed allegations that de Jongh accepted bribes in exchange for facilitating the sale of a telecommunications company to a politically embattled U.S. telecom cooperative.
According to TheDC’s source within U.S. Department of Justice, who served on a team put in place to arrest finance executives close to that telecommunications deal, de Jongh accepted part of at least $20 million in cash bribes that floated throughout the USVI government.
In addition to allegations of malfeasance on de Jongh’s part, TheDC’s DOJ source said the Justice Department had obtained sealed indictments of finance executives in connection with a years-long investigation into financial crimes that National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) executives allegedly committed over the past ten or more years.
But, because TheDC’s source said two prosecutors on a team of more than 25 also accepted cash bribes, and five other prosecutors on the team were also compromised in some way other than being bribed, the DOJ never acted on the sealed indictments — even though arrest teams were in position and ready to move.