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Federal Crackdown: Individual Acknowledges Plot to Circulate Over 200 Kilograms of Cocaine in St. Thomas

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ST. THOMAS — The U.S. Attorney, Delia L. Smith, disclosed on Friday that St. Thomas resident, Kelly Bruney, 36, entered a guilty plea on October 11, 2023, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller concerning a conspiracy to possess with the aim of distributing a substantial amount of cocaine exceeding five kilograms.

Court records reveal that in the early phase of 2022, specifically January, Bruney along with an accomplice, planned to vend 200 kilograms of cocaine to undercover operatives from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As stipulated in the arrangement, on February 3, 2022, the duo was committed to handing over 86 kilograms of cocaine to the undercover personnel.

On the aforementioned date, federal enforcement officers executed a search warrant at a dwelling in Frenchtown, where they seized 87 kilograms of cocaine and a Glock handgun. The accomplice was discovered concealed within a closet of the residence, while Bruney was apprehended shortly thereafter, navigating a truck in the vicinity of the premises.

This case emerged from a meticulous investigation spearheaded by the DEA, coupled with the collaborative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations, Air Marine Operations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The prosecution is being managed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Payne.

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Crime

Kansas Man Charged for Not Declaring Firearm During St. Thomas Visit

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ST. THOMAS — A Kansas man is facing charges in the District Court of the Virgin Islands for failing to declare a firearm during his visit to St. Thomas.

Customs and Border Protection officials, conducting routine inspections at the Cyril E. King Airport on Thursday, discovered the undeclared weapon during a secondary search prompted by a canine alert on a bag belonging to Robert Dean Zoch’s travel partner.

The search revealed a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver in Zoch’s checked luggage. The firearm, packed with five rounds of ammunition, was accompanied by an additional 10 rounds in speedloaders.

Zoch, a resident of Kansas, was on his way home on a Spirit Airlines flight with a layover in Orlando, Florida, when he was detained and questioned by Homeland Security Investigations agents. He admitted to knowingly packing the weapon in his bag without securing it, citing haste as the reason for his oversight. Zoch also confessed to not informing the airline about the firearm on either leg of his trip and admitted to lacking a federal license for the firearm.

According to court documents, Zoch claimed he carried the gun for protection due to reports of shootings in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Charged with failure to provide written notice of a firearm to a common carrier, Zoch appeared before U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller. He was ordered to sign an unsecured $15,000 bond for his release pending trial. His travel will be restricted to Shawnee County, Kansas, and St. Thomas. Additionally, his firearms will be held by authorities, and he must report regularly to the U.S. probation office.

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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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