Crime

Guilty Plea Entered in St. Croix Cocaine Smuggling Case

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St. Croix resident Edward Saldana, 37, has admitted his involvement in a drug smuggling operation, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith. His guilty plea to a charge of drug conspiracy was recorded during a court session with U.S. Magistrate Judge Emile Henderson III on April 23, 2024.

The investigation unfolded after a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport alerted Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on January 23, 2023. Edward Saldana and Bianca Torres were stopped by airport security as they tried to board a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, leading to their subsequent detention.

Upon examining Torres’ luggage, security personnel discovered four kilograms of cocaine, hidden within her carry-on bag. An inspection of Saldana’s baggage revealed an identical quantity of the drug. Investigations later confirmed that Saldana had supplied the narcotics to Torres that day, offering her $3,000 to transport them to Florida.

Bianca Torres entered her guilty plea on February 12, 2024, and is scheduled for sentencing on June 12 of the same year. Meanwhile, sentencing for Saldana is set for August 22, 2024. The sentences will be finalized by a federal district court judge, who will take into consideration the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines among other factors.

This case falls under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) initiative, which seeks to thwart and dismantle major criminal networks that pose a threat to national security. The OCDETF employs a strategic, prosecutor-led, multi-agency approach to law enforcement. Further details on this program can be found on the official website at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Rhonda Williams-Henry, following thorough investigations by both Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection.

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