Three British Virgin Islands citizens are now facing the possibility of life in prison in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands (USVI) for more than 600 kilograms of cocaine that was allegedly found in the vessel on which they were travelling.
In a press release by the US Attorney’s Office District of the Virgin Islands
, the three BVIslanders were apprehended with a fourth person — a citizen of the Dominican Republic. They were charged with illegal possession of cocaine with intent to distribute after the vessel was apprehended by USVI law enforcement off the shores of St Croix.
According to the press release, the USVI’s Customs & Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (CBP-AMO) along with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) detected a 32-foot vessel headed north towards the vicinity of the BVI at approximately 3:30 pm on January 9. When law enforcement approached the vessel, it was dead in the water.
“Captaining the vessel was British Virgin Islands resident Shannon John. Passengers included Sean John and Emmanuel Tolentino-Lebron, both also from the BVI, and Augusto Rodriquez Molina, a citizen of the Dominican Republic,” the press release said.
“Federal authorities located approximately 667 kilograms of cocaine packaged in approximately 20 block-shaped bales onboard. All four men were arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine on a covered vessel, and conspiracy to commit the same offence,” the release added.
“If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment
CBP-AMO and Homeland Security are investigating the case. The case will also be prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Everard Potter. As the crime for which they are charged is a federal offence in the USVI jurisdiction, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The release further noted the arrest is part of the efforts of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation.
OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
Recently, the BVI Authorities captured Jose Almestica who, according to the Commissioner of Police Mark Collins, is a major player in the drugs and arms trade in the USVI and the BVI.
It was revealed that 20 guns, including seven high-powered weapons, were found at the residence of Almestica in Ballast Bay. The police also found more than 500 kilos of cocaine, 5.8 kilos of marijuana, cash, and counterfeit money. Almestica was also wanted by the USVI authorities.