Trial for Licensing Officer, Accused of Soliciting Sex, Set for April

The Ron deLLugo Federal Courthouse. (File photo)
The Ron de Lugo Federal Courthouse. (File photo)

A compliance officer for Licensing and Consumer Affairs has pleaded not guilty after a federal grand jury charged him with soliciting a bribe as a public employee. Defendant Robert Defreitas, 31, was named in an indictment issued earlier this month.

At an arraignment hearing held Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller accepted the defendant’s not guilty plea to two federal counts of Travel Act bribery and blackmail, and one local count of Solicitation of a Bribe by a Public Employee.

Miller set an April 1 trial date before District Court Judge Curtis Gomez. The defendant is currently free on a $25,000 unsecured bond, pending trial.

The indictment alleges Defreitas approached an individual, identified by the initials L.Y.C.H. and threatened to notify immigration officials about that person’s undocumented status in the United States unless sexual favors were granted.

According to the charging document, “… the defendant Robert Defreitas, did knowingly demand from L.Y.C.H. a valuable thing, namely sexual favors, under threat of informing and as a consideration for not informing against … “

And, according to Title 14, Virgin Islands Code, Section 403, the alleged proposition counts as solicitation of a bribe.

The Travel Act, also known as the International Travel Act of 1961, makes it a crime to use mail or forms of travel to facilitate a violation of law. In this case, the grand jury charged the defendant’s use of a telephone to convey the threat served that alleged purpose.

If convicted on the charges, Defreitas could face a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

The current prosecution marks the second time in four years that a V.I. government employee has been charged with coercion of an immigrant in order to exploit them sexually. In November 2015, an employee of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency was sentenced to four months in prison for posing as an agent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to solicit sexual favors from a male victim.

Charges against the defendant in that case, George Lewis, were first filed in October 2014. Lewis later claimed the victim was a romantic partner who brought the charges in order to manipulate him