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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

BVI Pastor and Radio Host Arrested on Allegations of Fraudulent Government Contracts

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Claude Skelton Cline, a well-known pastor and radio personality in the British Virgin Islands, has been arrested and charged with obtaining property by deception, false accounting, and proceeds of crime.

The arrest follows an announcement from former Governor John Rankin last March, revealing that an audit, recommended by the Commission of Inquiry, scrutinized government contracts awarded to Cline between 2008 and 2010. According to Rankin, the audit uncovered “failures in good governance and improper use of public funds.” The findings were forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecution, and the police.

BVI police stated that Cline’s arrest on Friday culminated an 18-month criminal investigation initiated by the audit’s findings. The audit revealed that Cline received over $350,000 during this period with negligible results from his consultancy work, leading auditors to conclude that the contracts primarily benefited Cline financially rather than providing value to the government.

“The government failed to receive value for money on these contracts,” the report stated. In response to the public disclosure of the audit findings last year, Cline asserted his innocence, claiming, “I did a phenomenal job for my part in a two-part contractual arrangement.” He further stated, “I feel no compunction to defend myself.”

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Joseph Anthony Ramirez Faces Attempted Murder Charges After Assaulting Officers in St. Croix

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At the Candido Guadalupe Housing Complex in St. Croix, a report of domestic violence on Sunday afternoon quickly turned perilous for responding officers, culminating in attempted murder charges for 37-year-old Joseph Anthony Ramirez.

The sequence of events unfolded when the Virgin Islands Police Department received a call around 2:33 p.m. from the 911 Emergency Call Center regarding a disturbance at apartment 85, building 7. Upon arrival, officers were informed by the victim that Ramirez had vandalized her apartment. As one officer began to investigate, Ramirez unexpectedly attacked, initiating an assault by placing the officer in a chokehold, threatening his ability to breathe.

The attack escalated even after a good Samaritan and the victim intervened, enabling the officer to momentarily escape. Despite being informed of his arrest, Ramirez attacked again, this time inflicting a severe laceration above the officer’s eyelid and resuming the chokehold. The situation required backup, with two additional officers arriving at the scene before Ramirez could be subdued and arrested.

Charged with attempted murder and third-degree assault, Ramirez was subsequently read his Miranda Rights, booked, and transported to the John Bell Correctional Facility. Unable to meet the initial $100,000 bail, Ramirez was held until a court hearing on Tuesday where his bail was reduced to $10,000. He remains in custody, with a bail hearing scheduled for later today, May 15.

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St. Croix Woman Faces Felony Charges for Neglecting Children While Partying

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A St. Croix woman, Ana Felix, has been charged with felony child neglect after her children were reportedly left unattended while she attended a party. This incident came to light when a 3-year-old boy was discovered wandering alone at Breezewood Villas apartment complex late on Thursday, May 9.

At around 10:30 p.m., responding to a distress call about the toddler, police were directed by a neighbor who had noticed the child around 9 p.m. The neighbor, realizing the child was unsupervised and inadequately dressed, provided a diaper and alerted authorities.

Upon investigating the apartment indicated by the neighbor, officers found it unoccupied except for a sleeping 10-year-old girl. She initially claimed her mother was at work but later revealed that her mother had gone to a party and was not expected back until morning. Attempts to contact Felix using multiple phone numbers found in the apartment were unsuccessful.

Community members expressed repeated concerns about the children’s welfare, describing previous instances where they intervened to provide care for Felix’s children due to her absence. The officers were able to contact the children’s father, who was unaware of the situation but came promptly to collect his children.

While awaiting his arrival, police discovered the children lacked basic necessities and could not secure their home due to a missing key. The maintenance supervisor at the complex reported previous similar incidents involving the older child, stating he had considered reporting Felix to the Department of Human Services.

The following day, Felix appeared at the Wilbur Francis Command Police Station claiming her children were taken. During a subsequent phone conversation with the police, she admitted to frequently leaving her children alone at home, citing a lack of support and child care assistance.

Felix was arrested on Friday, May 10, when she returned to her residence. Initially held on a $50,000 bail, there is no current information available on the outcome of her advice of rights hearing, which took place on April 13 before Magistrate Ernest Morris, or any adjustments to her bail conditions pending trial.

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