According to the Virgin Islands Daily News on November 21, 2020, Federal agents intercepted a vessel carrying 433 pounds of cocaine in duffel bags off St Thomas around 9:30pm on Wednesday night, and charged the five men aboard with drug smuggling, according to documents filed in US District Court.
Jorge Romero-Amaro, Giovanni Graciani, Hector Rivera, Ruben Reyes, and Pedro Sayan were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
The boat was reportedly heading from St Thomas to Puerto Rico.
According to the USVI publication, agents read the five men their rights, and Mr Reyes waived his right to remain silent and said he travelled illegally from Tortola in the [British] Virgin Islands to St Thomas by boat, according to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the FBI.
“Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, further stated that he was trying to get to Puerto Rico, and that he paid $500 to a boat captain in Tortola to transport him to St John.”
Reyes told agents that he didn’t know the duffle bags were aboard when he boarded the vessel bound for Puerto Rico, and he was supposed to pay the captain $1,000 on his arrival,” according to the affidavit.
All five men made their initial appearance on Friday, November 20, 2020, before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller, who scheduled their preliminary examinations and detention hearings for November 25, 2020.
According to the affidavit, US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations had been tracking the vessel by radar.
As CBP marine units were following the vessel and trying to force it to stop, agents “saw individuals onboard the target vessel throwing black objects overboard into the ocean,” according to the affidavit.
The agents dropped markers where the objects were discarded and continued to pursue the fleeing vessel until it “finally stopped.”
US Coast Guard personnel who responded to the scene retrieved the discarded objects, and found seven duffle bags floating in the ocean, according to the affidavit. Inside the bags, agents said they found 187 cellophane wrapped brick-shaped packages of cocaine weighing approximately 433 pounds.