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Puerto Rico Man Gets 10 Year Prison Term For Bringing 500 Pounds of Cocaine Here

CHRISTIANSTED – A Puerto Rico man was handed a 10-year prison term on Friday for his involvement in a cocaine smuggling operation that brought about 500 pounds of cocaine here.

Jean Carlos Vega-Arizmendi, 27, was sentenced to 120 months in prison for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

U.S. District Court Judge Wilma Lewis also sentenced Vega-Arizmendi to five years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,000.00 and a special assessment of $300.00.

On June 26, 2018, a federal jury convicted Vega-Arizmendi along with five co-defendants on cocaine-related charges. 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 by the drug organization. Law enforcement
efforts to interdict the drug shipments were successful, beginning in 2015.

Between December 13 and 15, 2014, Vega-Arizmendi assisted others in attempts to retrieve 30 kilograms of cocaine
mid-sea. Vega-Arizmendi functioned as a boat operator. In May 2015, he bought a gas tank for a boat in St. Croix that was to be used to retrieve a load of cocaine.

The boat flipped and was never taken out to sea. During the summer of 2015, Vega-Arizmendi and others also attempted to retrieve a 70 kilogram load of cocaine and transport it into Culebra.

Vega-Arizmendi functioned as the look-out person during that episode.

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

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

Of the six who were convicted on June 26, 2018, four have been sentenced and two are awaiting sentence.

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

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alphonso G. 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 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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