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The Risks and Consequences of Smuggling Illegal Firearm Components: A Case Study from St. Croix

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Prison with iron fences.Prison or jail is a building where people are forced to live if their freedom has been taken away.Prison is the building use for punishment prisoner. (Prison with iron fences.Prison or jail is a building where people are forced

In a recent development highlighting the ongoing battle against illegal firearm component trafficking, a case from St. Croix has drawn significant attention. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Virgin Islands, led by Delia Smith, has successfully prosecuted a case involving the smuggling of machinegun conversion kits, a concerning trend in firearm-related crimes.

The case centered on a 33-year-old individual who was caught attempting to smuggle illegal firearm components, including devices known as “Glock Switches.” These components are particularly alarming due to their ability to transform standard semi-automatic Glock pistols into fully automatic weapons, significantly increasing their lethality.

The interception of these components at the Henry Rohlsen Airport by Customs and Border Patrol officers underscores the vigilance required at points of entry to stem the flow of such illegal items. The components, hidden in luggage, included not only the Glock Switches but also pistols, various pistol components, and ammunition, showcasing the diverse nature of smuggling operations.

This case was thoroughly investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection, reflecting the collaborative effort needed to address such sophisticated smuggling operations. The prosecution, led by Assistant United States Attorney Evan Rikhye, resulted in a 38-month prison sentence for the individual involved, following a guilty plea for possession of a machine gun.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges law enforcement agencies face in combating the illegal trade of firearm components. The ability of such components to enhance the firepower of standard weapons poses a significant threat to public safety. The successful interception and prosecution in this case demonstrate the effectiveness of vigilant border security and the legal system’s role in deterring such criminal activities.

Through this case study from St. Croix, it’s evident that the issue of illegal firearm component smuggling is not just a local problem but a global concern. It highlights the need for continued vigilance, international cooperation, and stringent law enforcement to safeguard communities against the dangers posed by illegally modified firearms.

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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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