Three police officers, who are accused of agreeing to steal money from suspected criminals they detained or arrested, returned to court this week to face trial.
Pamphill Prevost, Simon Power and Shawn Henry are all charged with conspiracy to steal after “helping themselves” to large sums of cash during police operations between 2012 and 2014, according to the prosecution.
Mr. Power is also charged with acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of criminal conduct; and Messrs. Prevost and Power are charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
On Tuesday morning, Queen’s Counsel John Black outlined the Crown’s case against the officers.
Law enforcement is “there to serve you” and protect the community, Mr. Black told the jury, and the public “expects police to act with honesty and integrity.” Instead, the three defendants served themselves, he argued.
“Temptation to enrich themselves proved too great,” Mr. Black said.
‘The Leon King incident’
Messrs. Prevost, Power and Henry were part of a specialist unit within the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force called the Proactive Team, Mr. Black told the court in his opening statement this week.
The unit was tasked with carrying out official operations in relation to the illegal importation of drugs and money into the territory.
The prosecutor alleged that the defendants conspired to steal money in five separate incidents. The first, which took place on Jan. 24, 2012, is dubbed by prosecutors as “the Leon King incident.”
Officers from the Proactive Team had driven to Sopers Hole that afternoon and watched as Mr. King drove a small boat to an area where an unattended jeep was parked, Mr. Black alleged. Officers including Messrs. Henry and Prevost approached Mr. King and searched the boat, he said.
A black bag containing a large amount of money was found, and pictures were taken of the bag and its contents, the court heard. The cash was seized and given an exhibit number, with Mr. Prevost’s initials written on it, the prosecutor said.
But when the money was counted at the police station and more photos were taken, there appeared to be a “significant difference” between what had been in the bag at the scene and in the station, Mr. Black said. The Crown argued that Messrs. Prevost and Henry had been in possession of the money before it was taken to the station.
‘The CGB incident’
In another operation on Dec. 20, 2012, now called “the Cane Garden Bay incident,” officers including Messrs. Prevost and Power searched a residence near the CGB Police Station. The court heard that officers found a large pillowcase, approximately 24 inches tall, filled with cash.
Later, the prosecution alleged, Mr. Prevost was seen walking out of the residence with the pillowcase, which did not appear to be in an evidence bag.
Messrs. Prevost and Power gave the seized money to the deputy police commissioner later, but according to other officers who had seen the pillowcase initially, the volume of money did not appear to be the same as what was seen in the house, Mr. Black said. The money was counted at the station and reportedly totalled $133,000.
Two years later, when an investigation began into the Proactive Team, other officers organised a series of “reconstructions” of what the pillowcase would have looked like completely full of money, Mr. Black said.
The court heard that when it was only half full, the replica pillowcase contained roughly $270,000.
‘Are you in?’
According to the Crown, Mr. Prevost also made a “determined effort” in 2013 to recruit another police officer to take money during official police operations.
During a trip to Dominica in October of that year, Mr. Prevost allegedly gave the other officer a detailed account of at least one of the incidents where money was stolen, and asked him, “Are you in?”
Though the officer has maintained that he did not want a part in the scheme, he didn’t know what the consequences of saying no would be, Mr. Black said.
The officer allegedly replied, “Yes, I’m in.”
The trial continues this week. Mr. Prevost is being represented by defence attorney Patrick Thompson, Mr. Henry by Queen’s Counsel Ian Wilkinson, and Mr. Power by attorney Israel Bruce.