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Crime

Two Puerto Ricans Receive Prison Sentences for Smuggling Millions into St. Thomas

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In a significant development for the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith has confirmed that Jesus Lebron Pinto and Geraldo Morales, both 29 and hailing from Puerto Rico, have been given prison sentences of 12 months and a day. This decision, issued by Chief District Judge Robert A. Molloy, follows their guilty pleas for conspiring to conceal over $100,000 in cash on a vessel specially equipped for smuggling.

The origins of this case trace back to April 7, 2021. That day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine officers were conducting border security operations near Stumpy Beach on St. Thomas’s west end. During their patrol, they detected unusual signs, such as a boat’s wake and engine sounds near the beach, and noticed a silver Ford Explorer with heavily tinted windows nearby.

When officers approached the Explorer, its driver, later identified as one of the defendants, attempted escape on foot. He left behind three large, damp black bags in the vehicle’s trunk, which were found to contain roughly $1.68 million in U.S. currency. This substantial sum was later seized by authorities. The capture of Pinto and Morales occurred shortly after they abandoned the smuggling vessel.

This case represents the successful collaboration of various agencies, including Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Everard Potter and Adam Sleeper were at the forefront of the prosecution.

Moreover, this case forms part of the broader efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF’s mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the operations of major drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal syndicates threatening U.S. security. This is achieved through a concerted, intelligence-driven approach, combining the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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Crime

Law Enforcement Swiftly Captures Suspect in Christiansted Robbery Spree

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Following a series of robbery incidents in Christiansted on February 20, the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) demonstrated remarkable efficiency by arresting 28-year-old Koi Thomas. The alarming events, reported to the emergency services in close succession at approximately 10:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., prompted a swift and thorough response from the VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau detectives.

Eyewitness accounts from the victims were crucial in the investigation, enabling law enforcement to quickly gather surveillance footage pinpointing Thomas as the perpetrator. In a fortunate turn of events, Thomas had been apprehended earlier the same day on unrelated larceny charges in the Gallows Bay area, and was already under detention at the John Bell Correctional Facility.

Detectives visited the correctional facility on February 22, where they officially charged Thomas with two counts of third-degree robbery. Subsequently, Thomas was processed at the Wilbur H. Francis Command Police Station, with his bail determined at $25,000.

Despite Thomas’s court hearing being scheduled for the following Friday, information pertaining to his legal proceedings had yet to be disclosed publicly by Sunday. This arrest underscores the vigilance and dedication of the Virgin Islands law enforcement in maintaining public safety and swiftly addressing criminal activities.

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Crime

Tragic Shooting in St. Thomas Leaves Young Man Dead

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A tragic incident unfolded in the Bovoni Housing Community of St. Thomas late on Thursday night, claiming the life of a young resident. Omar K. Fontaine, a 20-year-old local, fell victim to a lethal shooting, succumbing to multiple gunshot wounds.

The incident was detected by the ShotSpotter Detection System, which notified the V.I. Police Department of the gunfire at precisely 11:11 p.m. Officers from the Mariel C. Newton Command swiftly responded to the alert and discovered Fontaine unresponsive. Despite the prompt arrival of emergency medical technicians, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fontaine’s untimely death has sparked a thorough investigation by the Major Crimes Unit of the VIPD, which is determined to bring those responsible to justice. The police are appealing to the community for assistance, encouraging anyone with information to step forward. Contributions can be made directly to the Major Crimes Unit at 340-642-8449, through a call to 911, or by submitting tips anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8476 or online through their tip form.

This devastating event underscores the urgent need for community cooperation and vigilance in combating violence and safeguarding our neighborhoods.

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Crime

Police Detain Suspect in Shooting Incident Near St. Croix Fire Station

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The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) announced the successful apprehension of 19-year-old Malyki Lockhart on Thursday, in a significant development related to a shooting attempt incident from September 10, 2023.

This operation, a collaborative effort by the VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Special Operations Bureau, underscores the department’s commitment to maintaining public safety and bringing those accused of serious crimes to justice.

The arrest stems from an alarming episode that unfolded near the Richmond fire station on St. Croix. A man recounted a harrowing experience of being targeted by gunfire from an approaching vehicle, with the assailant identified as Lockhart, who allegedly opened fire while leaning out of the car.

In the wake of a meticulous investigation, it was concluded that Lockhart had purportedly been at the helm of the vehicle during the attack. This led to the issuance of an arrest warrant for first-degree attempted murder and a search warrant for his residence on February 14. The court set bail at $100,000.

Upon executing the search and arrest warrants, Lockhart was taken into custody. Given the inability to secure bail, he was subsequently detained at the John Bell Correctional Facility. He awaits an Advice of Rights Hearing slated for Friday at the V.I. Superior Court, where he will be formally apprised of the charges levied against him.

This arrest highlights the relentless efforts of law enforcement to protect the community and ensure that justice is served, reflecting the VIPD’s dedication to upholding law and order in the face of criminal activities.

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