Former Police Chief Benta Charges Governor, Other Officials With Conspiracy In His “de facto” Termination
Former St. Croix District Police Chief Oakland Benta has charged Gov. John P. deJongh, Jr., and other government officials with conspiracy in events that led to his ongoing suspension and “de facto” termination from the police department.
The charges stem from a July 2009 incident at the home of former ICC owner Jeffrey Prosser when Benta accompanied officials from the Christie’s Auction House to inspect and take possession of the contents of a wine cellar at the residence.
The inspection was part of the ongoing bankruptcy litigation against Prosser for whom Benta formerly worked as Chief of Security at Innovative Communications Corporation.
In his complaint filed in the St. Croix District Court, Benta states that the Christies agents entered the wine cellar but did not remove its contents. Following the inspection, Benta entered the cellar and noticed that the air conditioning unit had been unplugged. Temperature control is critical to the preservation of wines and the lack of it will result in the spoilage of the wine.
According to the complaint, “after review and believing that one or more crimes may have been committed,” Benta filed an official police report in September, 2009, concerning the July incident and as a result of the investigation that followed; subpoenas were issued by the Virgin Islands Attorney General’s office for the two Christie’s employees who entered the wine cellar.
But on December 8, 2009, during a hearing on the Prosser bankruptcy, a representative of the AG’s office told the court that his office had “no knowledge” of any criminal investigation in process related to the wine cellar event.
In a deposition taken later that month, Charles Antin, one of the Christie’s employees who had entered the wine cellar, that he had instructed his fellow colleague, Mr. Mike Moser, to unplug the air conditioning unit.
The complaint goes on to state that in December of 2011, Benta was approached by both an attorney for the trustees who were managing the assets during the bankruptcy and an FBI agent who encouraged him to “cause the termination of the investigation:” into the incident. Benta refused.
Then on December 27, 2011, Benta received a letter from Acting Police Commissioner Henry White informing him that a letter recommending his termination for his actions related to the wine cellar incident had been submitted to Governor deJongh for approval. On that same date, Benta was placed on administrative leave without pay and ordered to return all property related to his duties as a member of the police force. He was further informed that he was not to return to police headquarters at any time without advance notice.
And in a final twist, when Benta notified the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents law enforcement personnel, of these actions, the PBA informed him that he was not entitled to any relief from the union because “they had no record of him being a police officer.”
Benta is seeking both punitive and compensatory damages in the matter.