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Cape Air Employee Involved in Cocaine Transaction at Airport; 40-Year Prison Sentence Looms

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ST. THOMAS — Recent developments in a high-stakes drug case have captured the attention of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Delia L. Smith, the U.S. Attorney, confirmed on Thursday that a 24-year-old by the name of Ahkoi Smith, a native of St. Thomas who has since moved to Florida, has admitted guilt in a cocaine distribution case. His formal plea was registered in front of District Court Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller.

Smith now waits in anticipation of his sentencing, scheduled for December 1, 2023. The gravity of his charges could lead to a severe punishment: a prison term of up to 40 years, supervised release spanning a minimum of three years, and a staggering fine that could potentially reach $1,000,000.

As revealed in the official court filings, the pivotal event leading to Smith’s arrest unfolded on January 11, 2023. Smith was set to embark on a Spirit Airlines journey, departing from St. Thomas and touching down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Before his flight, he reportedly met with Shakari Francis, an associate working for Cape Air, in an airport restroom near the food and retail section of the Cyril E. King Airport. The duo’s interaction allegedly involved Smith receiving two blocks of cocaine.

Federal officers, upon gathering intelligence, approached Smith during his boarding process. In a bid to evade the authorities, Smith impulsively discarded his backpack, filled with the illegal substance, onto the runway and made a hasty escape attempt across the active airstrip. However, his flight was short-lived, as federal officers acted swiftly, detaining him without delay.

It’s worth noting that Shakari Francis, implicated in this ordeal, entered a guilty plea concerning a similar cocaine distribution charge earlier this year on June 26, 2023. The justice system is set to determine his fate on October 6, 2023.

This significant drug bust was a result of the meticulous efforts of Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter is leading the prosecution. This case isn’t isolated—it’s an integral component of a broader Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) initiative. The overarching aim of this program is to pinpoint and neutralize upper-echelon drug syndicates, money laundering operations, and global crime rings that are perceived as threats to U.S. national security. Spearheaded by prosecution professionals, this coalition merges federal, state, and local resources, harnessing collective capabilities to tackle and destabilize criminal hierarchies.

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Crime

Swift Justice: Fugitive Duo Nabbed at St. Thomas Airport En Route to Mainland

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At Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, vigilant Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials thwarted the escape efforts of two fugitives attempting to flee to the mainland, underscoring the effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies in keeping our communities safe.

Jasmine Cherie Sheppard’s plan to evade the law came to a halt on a serene Sunday afternoon. As she navigated through the checkpoint, aiming for an American Airlines flight to Miami, the advanced security systems sounded the alert. An outstanding arrest warrant for Sheppard, hailing from Louisiana, was confirmed active by Fort Bend County, Texas authorities, leading to her immediate arrest on charges of being a fugitive from justice.

The diligence of CBP officers continued to shine mere hours later when Taheim James Hart became the focus of their unwavering attention. With an active warrant from Hudson County, New Jersey, Hart’s intentions of boarding a Delta Airlines flight bound for New York were swiftly curtailed. Like Sheppard, Hart was arrested and charged as a fugitive from justice, with both individuals being promptly remanded to await their respective advice of rights hearings.

The swift actions of the officials at Cyril E. King Airport not only prevented these individuals from potentially evading justice but also demonstrated the unyielding resolve of our law enforcement to protect and serve. Magistrate Simone VanHolten-Turnbull presided over the initial appearances for both Sheppard and Hart. Sheppard is set to return to court on March 19, with Hart’s follow-up hearing pending scheduling. These events serve as a stark reminder of the relentless pursuit of justice within the Virgin Islands, ensuring that those who seek to escape the law are held accountable for their actions.

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Crime

Attempt to Sell Stolen Property Back to Owner Leads to Arrest in St. Thomas

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In a bold turn of events on St. Thomas, John David Turnick Jr. faces serious legal repercussions after attempting to sell a stolen power inverter back to its original owner. The incident unfolded at Neomi’s Car Wash on February 14, drawing immediate attention from local law enforcement.

The saga began when the proprietor of a neighboring mechanic shop reported to the police that her Nissan Pathfinder had been burglarized a few days prior, with several items missing, while it was left unlocked. On Valentine’s Day, she encountered a man attempting to sell her a power inverter. Upon inspection, she identified it as her property, pilfered from her vehicle earlier, promptly reclaiming it and contacting the authorities.

John David Turnick Jr., identified as the individual attempting the sale, was apprehended by police. He initially confessed to the act of trying to sell the power inverter, alongside admitting to possessing additional stolen items from the same vehicle, including a speaker, flashlights, and a hammer. However, later at the Ancilmo Marshall Command Police Station, Turnick altered his account, claiming he had acquired the items from an unnamed third party.

Turnick’s arrest followed swiftly, with charges of possession of stolen property levied against him. Despite the charges, he was unable to meet the $25,000 bail set and was consequently detained.

During a court hearing, Magistrate Yolan Brow Ross confirmed the gravity of the charges, endorsing the bail amount. Pending his release, Turnick faces house arrest, monitored electronically, awaiting the resolution of his case.

His subsequent court date is slated for March 6, marking the next chapter in this unusual case of theft and attempted resale to the unwitting victim.

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Crime

St. Croix Woman Faces Legal Consequences for Selling Public Housing Appliance

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A significant legal issue has emerged within the Walter I.M. Hodge Pavilion, a public housing community on St. Croix, following allegations against a former resident. The individual is now facing serious felony charges for purportedly selling a refrigerator, an asset of the housing unit, highlighting the critical importance of respecting property rights within community living spaces.

The incident came to light when police were alerted by the housing complex’s assistant manager about the disappearance of the appliance from one of the apartments. The call for investigation was part of a broader eviction procedure. Reports from fellow residents indicated that Shamyra Alicea was seen earlier that day engaging in the sale of the refrigerator to an unknown buyer for $200. This discovery prompted an immediate inspection by the complex’s management, confirming the absence of the refrigerator, a piece of property owned by the housing complex, from Alicea’s apartment.

Further inquiry into the situation revealed that the lease agreement Alicea signed upon moving in included the refrigerator as part of the apartment’s amenities, underscoring the unauthorized nature of the sale. When confronted by authorities, Alicea admitted to the sale but claimed she had yet to receive payment. The value of the refrigerator was estimated at nearly $700, marking a significant loss for the housing complex.

The legal proceedings against Alicea swiftly moved forward, with her arrest on charges of grand larceny and a subsequent court appearance. Magistrate Yolan Brow Ross confirmed the validity of the charges against Alicea, setting the stage for future legal deliberations. The case is currently pending further action, with Alicea’s arraignment scheduled for March 6, as the community awaits the outcome of this distressing situation.

This incident underscores the broader challenges faced by public housing communities in maintaining the integrity and security of their properties. It serves as a reminder of the legal and ethical responsibilities residents hold towards communal assets, ensuring a harmonious and respectful living environment for all.

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