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Mars Hill Man Admits To Gun and Stealing Electricity Charges In Federal Court … Drug Charges Not So Much

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CHRISTIANSTED – A Frederiksted man admitted in federal court on Friday to illegal weapons charges against him and a local charge related to stealing electricity to operate a marijuana grow room,

Dale Ritter, 53, of Mars Hill, pled guilty on March 23, 2018, in U.S. District Count to one federal count of Possession of a Firearm with Obliterated Serial Number, and one local count of Illegal Use of Utility Equipment, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

The federal offense carries a possible sentence of incarceration of up to five years, a maximum fine of up to $250,000 dollars, and a term of supervised release for not more than three years.

The V.I. Department of Justice 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 is set for July 25, 2018.

According to court documents, on July 21, 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) executed a search warrant at Ritter’s Mars Hill residence in Frederiksted.

Ritter originally faced one count each of manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute along with related gun charges, according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court on July 21.

During the execution of this search warrant, DEA agents located a Taurus Millennium 9mm handgun with an obliterated serial number.

Agents also turned up 242 marijuana plants and marijuana in one apartment and a Mossberg 715-T 22 mm rifle in another apartment, according to an affidavit written by DEA Task Force Officer Kassandra Desormeaux.

The Taurus Millennium gun was determined to be operable and had been shipped in interstate commerce.

Additionally, the agents located unauthorized electric wires running from a pole owned by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) that provided electricity to Ritter’s residence and a marijuana grow room.

Police arrested Ritter on July 21 and advised him of his rights, according to Desormeaux.

“Subsequently, Ritter admitted to the ownership of the seized marijuana as well as the firearms,” she wrote.

However, Ritter’s name matches the name of a man indicted on Jan. 27, 2004 alongside his two brothers. One of the two brothers, Ernie Ritter, was a U.S. Post Office employee at the time of his arrest, according to previous court documents. The other brother, Reggy Ritter, lived in Baltimore, according to published news reports. Dale and Reggy Ritter turned themselves into police following Ernie’s arrest.

Ernie Ritter no longer appears in the federal employee database.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Finch dismissed charges against the Ritter brothers on Dec. 16, 2015, under the terms of the federal Speedy Trial Act of 1974. The Act requires that a trial in a criminal case be scheduled no more than 70 days after an initial appearance in federal court.

The Ritter brothers’ case also resulted in a Third U.S. Circuit Court ruling on appeal, though a copy of the ruling wasn’t available from the court documents web site on Friday.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Task Force Officers with the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel 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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