Seven Venezuelan Men Arrested On Federal Conspiracy Charges To Smuggle 573 Pounds Of Marijuana Into St. Croix
NARCO SUBMARINE: The U.S. Coast Guard boards vessels by force, sometimes at night, in extremely dangerous operations.
CHRISTIANSTED – Seven Venezuelan men were arraigned in federal court today on drug smuggling conspiracy-related charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Felix Gomez, 37; Roman Jose Aguilera Gig, 37; Jesus Garcia, 34; Rosauro Morao, 47; Manuel Rodriguez, 51; Juan Rodriguez, 25,; and Jhoan Gomez, 28, all of Venezuela, made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon, Jr., after being charged in a complaint with conspiracy to possess controlled substance on board a vessel, and possession of controlled substances on board a vessel, Acting U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett said.
A detention hearing is scheduled for May 23, 2017, Hewlett said.
According to court records, during the afternoon of May 8, 2017, a suspicious go-fast vessel was detected by a maritime patrol aircraft in international waters off Martinique.
The Coast Guard out of San Juan interdicted the go-fast, detained the seven men onboard and seized multiple bales, which tested positive for marijuana.
The Coast Guard transported the seven men and approximately 573 pounds of marijuana to St. Croix on Thursday, May 11, 2017.
If convicted of conspiracy to possess controlled substances and possession of controlled substances on board a vessel, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The interdiction was the result of ongoing, multi-agency and international law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve and Operation Caribbean Guard.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rhonda Williams-Henry.
Hewlett reminds the public that a criminal complaint is merely a formal charging document and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.
“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty,” she said.