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Dominican National Sentenced for Major Cocaine Trafficking in U.S. Waters

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In a significant development reported by U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith, Leandro De Los Santos, a 33-year-old from the Dominican Republic, has been sentenced to a 70-month prison term. This sentencing follows his admission of guilt in a case involving the possession and planned distribution of a large quantity of cocaine on a vessel within U.S. maritime jurisdiction.

This case came to light on September 11, 2022, when a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, the U.S.S. Billings, on a standard patrol near the Dominican Republic, intercepted an unmarked go-fast boat. Located about 80 nautical miles south of Bani, Dominican Republic, the vessel lacked any identifying features like a flag, registration, or name, and was later confirmed by the Dominican Republic Navy as not registered in their country. This lack of state registration placed the vessel under U.S. jurisdiction.

Upon interception, the Coast Guard apprehended De Los Santos along with Victor Reyes-Martinez on the vessel and confiscated an enormous cache of 630 kilograms of cocaine. Reyes-Martinez, who also entered a guilty plea for related charges, received a 57-month prison sentence earlier on March 30, 2023.

The arrest and successful prosecution of De Los Santos and Reyes-Martinez highlight the coordinated efforts of the United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Rikhye spearheaded the legal proceedings.

This case is a part of a larger investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is instrumental in combating significant drug trafficking, money laundering operations, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations threatening the U.S. It operates on a strategy that integrates intelligence-driven tactics, leveraging the combined expertise of various agencies under a cohesive prosecutorial framework.

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Crime

Wahilli James Sentenced for Role in RICO Enterprise Led by Incarcerated Paul Girard

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In a significant development, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Virgin Islands announced the sentencing of Wahilli James, aged 28, to a six-year prison term for his involvement in a criminal enterprise under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), masterminded by Paul Girard from his prison cell.

U.S. Attorney Delia Smith, who made the announcement, detailed James’s admission of guilt in two high-stakes armed robberies. These crimes occurred in St. Thomas and St. Croix, orchestrated as part of the Girard-led RICO enterprise.

Court records revealed a chilling account of the first incident on September 16, 2013. James, alongside accomplices, targeted Gems and Gold Corner Jewelry in St Thomas. The group executed a harrowing heist, with an assailant threatening the owner at gunpoint while James and the others looted a significant cache of jewelry.

The second incident, on November 21, 2013, saw James and his cohorts striking “They Say Bar” in St. Croix. Disguised with face masks and armed, they conducted the robbery. Tragically, during this event, the bar’s owner suffered a gunshot wound to the head from one of the robbers while attempting to thwart their entry.

Judge Savage, acknowledging James’s time already served, adjusted his 72-month sentence accordingly. Additionally, James is mandated to compensate $161,350.00 in restitution.

This case, a result of diligent efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Virgin Islands Police Department, was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Edwards, along with Criminal Division Trial Attorneys Christopher Taylor of the Violent Crime and Racketeering Section and Marie Zisa of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

The successful resolution of this case is part of the broader strategy of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) initiative. This program aims to neutralize high-level criminal threats including drug trafficking, money laundering, and other transnational criminal activities by employing a comprehensive, multi-agency, intelligence-driven approach. The OCDETF program unifies the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement to combat these sophisticated criminal networks.

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VIPD Apprehends Two Suspects Following Vehicle Chase and Shooting; Search for Third Suspect Underway

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ST. THOMAS – In a swift response to a 911 alert, VIPD officers engaged in a high-speed chase on Thursday afternoon in St. Thomas, following a report of a vehicle being driven recklessly by three masked individuals.

Beginning around 3:04 p.m. near Judy Gomez Highway in the Altona & Welgunst vicinity, the pursuit involved a vehicle reported as stolen. VIPD quickly mobilized after receiving a call about the vehicle’s hazardous driving.

The chase progressed to the Mafolie region, where the suspects, attempting to escape, drove the stolen car through a police checkpoint, resulting in damage to two vehicles, the VIPD informed the Consortium.

The situation intensified near Louisenhoj Castle, where shots were fired at the officers in pursuit, as confirmed by Glen Dratte, the VIPD Director of Communications. Subsequently, a male with a gunshot wound, identified as one of the suspects, was found in a nearby yard. He was apprehended by VIPD and received medical attention at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

The incident also led to the capture of a second suspect, who was likewise hospitalized for treatment. VIPD is actively searching for the third suspect, believed to be in the Hull Bay area.

The police have described the ongoing situation as dynamic and continue to work diligently. They are encouraging residents to stay alert and report any unusual activities in their neighborhoods to 911.

Updates on this evolving situation will be provided as they become available, ensuring the community stays informed.

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Crime

Passenger Detained for Marijuana Possession at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport

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In a recent incident at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, Rayjon Ali faces serious legal consequences for attempting to transport marijuana. This case unfolded on the evening of December 3, when Ali, arriving on a Spirit Airlines flight from Philadelphia with a stopover in Fort Lauderdale, was apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

The detection of the drugs was aided by narcotics-sniffing dogs, which signaled the presence of a controlled substance in a hardshell suitcase tagged to Ali. Upon inspection in a secondary area by CBP officers, Ali’s suitcase was found to contain $3,310 in U.S. currency and three bags of a green leafy substance. This substance later tested positive for marijuana, weighing in at 957 grams.

Ali, during a preliminary interview with a Department of Homeland Security Special Agent, admitted his awareness of the wrongdoing but claimed his motive was to earn money quickly. Despite this initial admission, he refrained from giving an official statement. Consequently, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The subsequent legal proceedings, including Ali’s advice of rights hearing, were presided over by Magistrate Yolan Brow Ross. During this hearing, a bail with a cash component of $750 was set. Further details of the hearing and the case are pending public release.

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