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Puerto Rico Man Gets Over A Decade In Prison For Trying To Bring 661 Pounds Of Cocaine To The Region

CHRISTIANSTED — A federal judge today gave a Puerto Rico man 11.25 years in prison for trying to bring 661.387 pounds of cocaine to the region, authorities said.

Anibal Vega-Arizmendi, 29, of Culebra, was sentenced to 135 months in prison for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, by U.S. District Court Judge Wilma A. Lewis, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Judge Lewis also sentenced Vega-Arizmendi to five years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,000.000 and a special assessment of $300.00.

Anibal Vega-Arizmendi, 29, of Culebra, Puerto Rico

On June 26, 2018, a federal jury convicted Vega-Arizmendi along with five codefendants on cocaine-related charges.

Evidence at trial revealed that the organization planned the mid-sea retrieval of over 300 kilograms of cocaine during the period of the conspiracy, January 2014 through March 2016.

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

In October 2014, Vega-Arizmendi and others effected the mid-sea retrieval of 71 kilograms of cocaine. Between December 13 and 15, 2014, he assisted others in attempts to retrieve 30 kilograms of cocaine mid-sea.

Witnessed testified that Vega-Arizmendi functioned as a boat operator. Between November 7, 2015 and November 12, 2015, he and others made several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve 87 kilograms of cocaine from mid-sea.

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 that were convicted on June 26, 2018, five have been sentenced and one is 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 E. Potter.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-vi/pr/six-members-venezuelan-sourced-maritime-cocaine-smuggling-operation-convicted-st-croix

https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20190620e38

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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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