Virgin Islands governor’s chief of staff resigns after seeking favorable tax breaks
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.
This scandal has tied in the highest levels of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Obama campaign bundler Marjorie Rawls Roberts — a tax attorney in the Virgin Islands — helped alleged and convicted financial criminals get tax breaks from that same program de Jongh’s now-former chief of staff was trying to dip into.
Roberts, who has pledged to raise between $100,000 and $200,000 for Obama’s 2012 campaign, helped recently convicted $7 billion Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford and executives from CFC with their tax break benefits applications.
The revelation that Roberts was helping such financial criminals forced DNC chairwoman and Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to cancel at the last minute a scheduled fundraising trip to the Virgin Islands — where she was scheduled to make an appearance with Roberts earlier this year.
The tax breaks program — essentially where millionaires and billionaires go to avoid paying high taxes — has faced extra scrutiny of late. Alleged blood-diamond financiers have benefited from the Virgin Islands’ “Economic Development Corporation” program, as does convicted sex offender billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Billionaire Donald Sussman, the husband of Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, also gets Virgin Islands Economic Development Corporation tax breaks. And, as The Maine Wire has detailed, Sussman shares a lot of connections with many of the same characters aforementioned.
This latest spark — the governor’s chief of staff’s resignation — might be enough to start moving the case Attorney General Eric Holder allegedly stalled. In late May, TheDC’s DOJ source said the arrest teams that were previously called back were sent back out and told to wait for Holder’s word to make a move.
*Correction: This article was corrected after publication to correctly characterize Berkowsky’s role regarding the PBB Trust.