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St. Croix’s Jaheem Benjamin Faces Five Years In Prison For Marijuana Cultivation

CHRISTIANSTED – A St. Croix man admitted in federal court to running a marijuana growing operation and tampering with his Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority meter to lessen his electricity bill.

Jaheem Benjamin, 31, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one federal count of manufacture of marijuana and one local count of illegal use of utility equipment, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert said.

The federal offense carries a potential mandatory minimum sentence of not less than five years and up to forty years imprisonment, a maximum fine of up to $5,000,000 dollars, and a term of supervised release of at least two years.

The territorial offense carries a potential fine of not less than $500 nor more than $3,000 or a prison sentence of up to one year.

Sentencing for Benjamin is set for July 12.

According to court documents, on February 14, 2017, Benjamin was growing one hundred-and-thirty-seven (137) marijuana plants in his garage located on St. Croix.

He was growing and harvesting the marijuana plants for sale purposes. At the time of his arrest, Benjamin admitted that he was selling marijuana for about $2,500 a pound, in order to make a living.

Benjamin used electrical equipment set up inside his garage to support and facilitate his marijuana grow operation.

He operated electrical equipment, using electricity passing through a meter belonging to WAPA that had been tampered with and altered.

As a result he was able to avoid payment to WAPA for the electricity to run the marijuana grow operation.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Task Force Officers with the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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