Sen. Thomas to Donate Money from Epstein’s EDC Company to Youth Basketball

Sen Athneil 'Bobby Thomas (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)
Sen Athneil ‘Bobby Thomas (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)

Sen. Athneil “Bobby” Thomas (D-STT) will donate $1,000 he received as a campaign donation from Southern Trust Company, an entity owned by billionaire and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, after finding out about the contribution this week, the St. Thomas senator said Tuesday.

According to Thomas, he learned of the campaign donation from Southern Trust on Monday. Thomas’ legislative aide, Jerain Fleming, said they received a list of companies owned by Epstein and cross-checked the list with the senator’s 2018 campaign contributions. Thomas said he did not know of Southern Trust’s ties with Epstein before this week.

“We’ll continue to do what we’ve always done, which is do good for the community,” Thomas said in a phone interview, adding that he would donate the amount toward an upcoming youth basketball tournament in August, one of the initiatives his office supports.

Thomas joins a growing list of U.S. Virgin Islands politicians who acknowledged receiving campaign contributions from Epstein or companies he owns. On July 9, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said she will donate to charity the same amount of campaign contributions she received from Epstein for her 2016 and 2018 political runs.

Sens. Alicia Barnes and Donna Frett-Gregory also acknowledged receipt of Epstein-tied funds for their 2018 campaigns, each receiving $1,000 from the same company, Southern Trust. On Saturday, Barnes said she would return the money to Southern Trust by certified mail on Monday. Also on Monday, Frett-Gregory said she will donate the amount to “youth in our community.”

Southern Trust, a beneficiary of the V.I. Economic Development Authority, is listed on the authority’s website as a company engaged in providing extensive DNA database and data-mining services. The company also lists former first lady Cecile deJongh, wife of former Gov. John deJongh, as office manager.

As an EDC company, Southern Trust receives as much as 90 percent in corporate and income tax cuts and a full exemption on gross receipts, business property and excise taxes.

Lawmakers who denied receiving any campaign donations from Epstein were Sens. Novelle Francis (D-STX), Allison Degazon (D-STX), Oakland Benta (D-STX), Steven Payne (At-Large), Janelle Sarauw (I-STT), Javan James (D-STX), Myron Jackson (D-STT), Stedmann Hodge (D-STT) and Marvin Blyden (D-STT).

Senators who have not yet responded to inquiries sent to their Senate emails were Sens. Dwayne Degraff (D-STT), Kenneth Gittens (D-STX) and Kurt Vialet (D-STX).