Atlanta Pot Smugglers Dominate Federal Court Docket In The Territory
Noelle Bishopel of Atlanta, Georgia
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Eight of 14 cases filed in federal court involve people from the U.S. mainland (most frequently Atlanta) trying to smuggle marijuana into the territory by packing it in their luggage on flights going to St. Thomas.
Case in point are two Atlanta natives were arraigned on marijuana smuggling related charges in federal court this spring.
Sierra Wimberly, 25, and Noelle Bishopel, 27, each Atlanta, Georgia residents, made their initial appearances on April 7, 2016, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller after being charged in separate complaints with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, United States Attorney Ronald Sharpe said.
Wimberly and Bishopel were both released on unsecured $10,000 bonds pending further proceedings.
According to the complaints, on April 6, 2016, at the Cyril E. King Airport, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) K-9 detected narcotics in checked bags belonging to Wimberly and Bishopel, who had arrived on a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta.
When Wimberly and Bishopel de-planed the aircraft, they were taken to secondary inspection where their checked bags were examined. CBP officers seized and field-tested approximately 4.9 kilograms of marijuana from Wimberly’s bag and approximately 10.25 kilograms of marijuana from Bishopel’s bag.
Under federal law if convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, Wimberly and Bishopel each face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being investigated by CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Everard Potter.
Sharpe said that a complaint is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt.
“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty,” he said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Thomas re-released the same information it disseminated about Wimberly and Bishopel on April 8 — again on August 9.
No explanation was given by federal authorities as to why.
The Virgin Islands Free Press has asked for a clarification of the matter.
Sierra Wimberly photo on Facebook.