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22-Year-Old British Virgin Islands Native Arraigned On Alien Smuggling Charges In St. Thomas

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A 22-year-old British Virgin Islands native made his initial appearance in federal court today on charges that he encouraged illegal migrants to enter the territory.

Ashemba Frett of Tortola, BVI made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller in U.S. District Court in St. Thomas after being charged in a complaint with encouraging and inducing aliens to illegally enter the United States, U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe said.

Judge Miller released Frett into the custody of a third-party custodian and ordered him to post a $10,000 unsecured bond, Sharpe said.

According to the complaint, on February 14, 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) conducted a safety stop on a vessel in American territorial waters. The vessel was operated by Frett and an unidentified person who jumped overboard prior to the vessel being stopped.

A Haitian national and a national from the Dominican Republic were on-board the vessel at the time. Neither the Haitian nor the Dominican Republic national possessed documents to lawfully enter the United States, authorities said.

Under federal law if convicted of illegally encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the United States, Frett faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and in the case of a violation in which the offense was done for the purpose of private financial gain, not more than 10 years’ imprisonment.

The case is being investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO), the USCG and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

Sharpe said that the 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,” he said.

ronald sharpe

U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe

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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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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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