Three Dominican Republic Natives Charged With Smuggling $30M Worth of Cocaine Here
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Three natives of the Dominican Republic appeared in federal court over the weekend to hear charges that they tried to smuggle $30 million worth of cocaine into the region.
Edwin Vargas, 31, Dany Perez-Brito, 44, and Lenin Cornelio-Perez, 32, all of Santo Domingo, were charged with conspiracy to possess and possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.
The three men made their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller on Saturday, according to Shappert.
After preliminary and detention hearingson Monday, Judge Miller ordered all three men detained.
The complaint alleges that Vargas, Perez-Brito, and Cornelio-Perez were aboard a go-fastboat detected by United States Coast Guard (USCG) aircraft personnel about 65 nautical miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, navigating on a southerly course.
The vessel did not display any sign of nationality. Following detection by the USCG, the go-fast boat changed course, and two USCG cutters were diverted to intercept it.
The vessel led authorities on a ten-hour high-speedchase in international waters between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.
Approximately 96 nautical miles north of St. Thomas, the go-fast boat’s engines malfunctioned, leaving the vessel dead in the water.
USCG authorities proceeded to board the vessel at 2:18 a.m. on December 11th and discovered 52 bales, approximately 1,132 kilograms, of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Air and Marine Operations (AMO), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Meredith Edwards.
Shappert said that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.
“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty,” she said.