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Six Men Convicted In Eight-Week Federal Cocaine Conspiracy Trial … Some Face 20 Years

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CHRISTIANSTED – Following an eight-week re-trial, a St. Croix federal jury convicted six men of cocaine conspiracy and drug distribution charges, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.

Sergio Quinones-Davila, 43, of Orlando, Fla., Jose Hodge, 38, of St. Croix, and Omi Guitierrez-Calderon, 38, Anibal Vega-Arizmendi, 28, Jean Carlos Vega-Arizmendi, 26, Jesus Burgos-Montanez, 31, all from Puerto Rico, were convicted on all counts, Shappert said.

According to trial testimony, the defendants were members of an international cocaine trafficking from 2014 through 2016.

Members of the conspiracy routinely retrieved cocaine shipments transported from Venezuela to mid-sea locations just south of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where the cocaine was transferred to local vessels for transport into St. Croix.

The cocaine was subsequently shipped to Puerto Rico for distribution.

Evidence at trial revealed that the organization planned for the retrieval of over 300 kilograms of cocaine during the period of the conspiracy.

Approximately 223 kilograms of cocaine were actually distributed. Law enforcement efforts to interdict the drug shipments were successful, beginning in 2015.

On November 14, 2015, law enforcement agents apprehended four members of the organization, including Hodge and Burgos, on a beach at Knight’s Bay on St. Croix and seized 87 kilograms of cocaine packed in four suitcases.

“This is one of the most significant transnational cocaine conspiracy investigations in recent memory, where large quantities of cocaine from Venezuela were shipped through the Virgin Islands and on to Puerto Rico,” Shappert said. “Apprehension and conviction of these defendants makes clear that federal agents and prosecutors will aggressively pursue the drug traffickers that threaten our islands.”

The United States Attorney for the territory also praised the agents and prosecution team who worked to bring these defendants to justice.

Fourteen individuals were originally charged as part of the drug trafficking organization.

Prior to trial six defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced.

Defendant Gutierrez-Calderon faces a sentence of imprisonment of 20 years to life and a fine of up to $20,000,000.

The remaining defendants face sentences of imprisonment of ten years to life and fines of up to $10,000,000.

Sentencing hearings for the defendants convicted at trial have been scheduled for October.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alphonso Andrews, Jr. and Everard Potter.

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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 50 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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