Considering the kind of people who belong, police unions typically aren’t where theft happens. But Donald Liburd apparently wasn’t typical. On March 15, Liburd, now 48, formerly the president of the St. Thomas-St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and a detective on the local police force, was arrested for stealing more than $65,000 from the union during the three years he headed it. He had been removed from his position in the summer of 2011 by fellow union members. Following his arrest, Liburd was released on a $25,000 bond.
Union Corruption Update first visited this story a little over a year and a half ago. On August 29, 2011, members of the St. Thomas-St. John’s Police Benevolent Association voted to file a report charging Liburd, president of the local since 2008, with embezzling more than $100,000 from the union. Suspicious rank and file already had voted that June 3 at a meeting to force him to hold an election within a month. Liburd would not do this, which led to members removing him from office and subsequently electing Cpl. Elroy Raymo as president. The wheels were now in motion. According to an affidavit prepared by U.S. Justice Department Special Agent Kenneth Schulterbrandt Jr., President Raymo and other new union officers conducted a review of local finances and “discovered that none of the account balances resembled the amounts” presented at the June 3 meeting. After reviewing further bank records, the new local leadership “became suspicious that PBA funds may have been misappropriated.”
That led to a meeting between Raymo and Liburd at a Red Hook (St. Thomas) pub, where Liburd admitted to diverting about $40,000 in funds for his own use. He repeated his admission in an August 27 letter to Raymo. Two days later, Raymo handed evidence over to police. Local secretary-treasurer Shikima Rhymer told investigators that Liburd on several occasions came to her house and asked her to countersign checks, often several blank ones at a time. He assured her he would provide appropriate documentation. The affidavit listed at least 54 unauthorized checks totaling $65,073 written out to Liburd or “cash” during July 2008-June 2011. Liburd, read the affidavit, “willfully, knowingly and intentionally” misappropriated funds and concealed the thefts by writing in false information on the memo lines. At this point, it’s hard to imagine Liburd not pleading guilty.