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Daring Nighttime Maritime Operation Foiled by CBP Agents

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A stark reminder of the challenges facing border security, unrelated to the recent capture off St. John.

In a bold effort thwarted by vigilant Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, a man now faces charges in the Virgin Islands District Court following a thwarted human smuggling operation from Tortola to St. John.

The drama unfolded on the night of February 23, near the serene Leinster Bay in St. John. CBP Marine Interdiction Agents, during their coastal patrol, detected an unlit boat making its secretive journey from the shores of Tortola. Employing night vision technology, the agents meticulously tracked the vessel as it stealthily crossed international waters, arriving in the tranquil vicinity of Leinster Bay, near the historic Annaberg ruins, under the cloak of darkness.

The boat’s attempt to slip back to Tortola was abruptly halted when the agents, revealing their presence with activated lights and sirens, demanded the vessel to stop. Lorenzo Charles, the captain hailing from St. Vincent & the Grenadines, was apprehended, and the boat was seized and towed to St. Thomas.

The capture revealed Charles and five passengers aboard: three individuals from India, including a minor, an Argentinian, and a Dominican Republic national. It was determined that none were U.S. citizens, having entered the country without authorization.

Charles promptly acknowledged his wrongdoing upon interrogation, confessing to a Homeland Security Investigations special agent about the illicit nature of his actions. He disclosed a desperate attempt to settle a $4000 debt by performing the smuggling operation, arranged after a mysterious lender demanded repayment.

According to Charles, the operation was meticulously planned, with the embarkation from Tortola’s West End under the guidance of his creditor, who loaded the five passengers onto his vessel. Despite lacking GPS equipment, Charles was confident in his navigational skills, having observed St. John from Tortola. He admitted to previously smuggling individuals into the U.S. and hoped this operation would extinguish his remaining debt.

The passengers shared a different story, claiming payment to another for their transport from Tortola to St. John, highlighting the complex web of human smuggling operations.

A detention hearing for Charles is scheduled with U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller. Prosecutors advocate for his detention, citing a significant flight risk, though they remain open to conditional pre-trial release given the identification of a reliable third-party custodian.

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Crime

Violent Robbery at Starz Hotel in St. Thomas Leaves Man Injured

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A violent encounter unfolded at Starz Hotel in the Contant area of St. Thomas, where an armed robbery took place in the early hours of Saturday. Local authorities were summoned to the location around 2:48 a.m. on April 13, following reports of the distressing event.

The V.I. Police Department reported that upon arrival, they learned from the victim that two assailants, described as black males, had exited a vehicle and confronted him. The robbers, armed and aggressive, knocked the man to the ground and struck his head with a gun. They proceeded to steal his chain, rummage through his pockets, and take his wallet before escaping in an SUV heading east.

Emergency responders transported the victim to Schneider Regional Medical Center. He received treatment for multiple injuries, which included a head contusion, chest bruising, lacerations inside his mouth, and damage to his left palm.

The VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau is actively pursuing leads in this case. They urge anyone with information related to this crime to contact them at 340-774-2211 ext. 5574, dial 911 for immediate assistance, or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers V.I.

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Crime

Former Deputy Park Superintendent of St. Croix Sentenced for Property Conversion and Fraud

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ST. CROIX, VI – Gregory Camacho, 43, previously Deputy Park Superintendent for the National Park Service in St. Croix, received a sentence of nine months of home detention and four years of probation for unlawfully converting property, according to U.S. Attorney for the USVI, Delia L. Smith. The sentencing was handed down by District Judge Wilma A. Lewis on Thursday.

In addition to home detention and probation, Judge Lewis imposed a $6,000 fine and a special assessment of $75 on Camacho. He was also ordered to pay restitution amounting to $29,502.20 to the National Park Service.

According to court filings, Camacho, during his tenure as acting park superintendent from June 2019 to August 2020, occupied two housing units owned by the National Park Service without fulfilling rental payments, causing a loss of $14,192.10. In another instance in July 2019, Camacho deceitfully claimed relocation expenses for his family’s move from Titusville, FL, to St. Croix, even though he moved alone. This action led to unjust reimbursements totaling $13,387.50.

Furthermore, between October 2018 and September 2019, Camacho was found to have submitted overlapping travel vouchers for the same trips from his primary duty station, resulting in an additional $1,922.50 in improper gains.

These findings were brought to light through an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior, with the case prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel H. Huston.

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Crime

Daylight Assault in St. Thomas Leaves Man Injured

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A distressing incident unfolded on St. Thomas when a man suffered injuries in a daylight assault in Simmonds Alley, according to a statement from the V.I. Police Department. The attack occurred on Wednesday around 12:15 p.m.

Authorities were alerted to the situation when the 911 Emergency Call Center received a call about a man found bleeding from the neck near the Jala Jala establishment on Kronprindsens Gade. Responding officers discovered the victim with a severe laceration on the left side of his neck, believed to be the result of the assault.

Despite the seriousness of his injuries, the victim refrained from providing a statement to law enforcement at the scene. He was quickly transported to Schneider Regional Medical Center for medical attention.

The VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau has taken charge of the investigation and is urging the public to assist by providing any relevant information. Individuals can contact the CIB at (340) 774-2211 or call 911. For those preferring to stay anonymous, tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers USVI by calling 1-800-222-8477 or online.

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