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Convicted Felon Who Hid Semi-Automatic Pistol In Shipment of Tools To St. Croix Pleads Guilty In Federal Court

CHRISTIANSTED — A St. Croix convicted felon admitted in federal court today that he hid a semi-automatic weapon in a shipment of tools to St. Croix, authorities said.

William Payne, 39, of St. Croix, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to one federal count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, on April 28, 2017, Payne and another individual traveled to Southern Oaks Gun & Pawn, a federally licensed firearms dealer, located in Orlando, Florida. Payne was present when the other individual purchased a KEL TEC PLR-16 semi-automatic pistol.

On May 2, 2017, Payne caused the same firearm, two high-capacity magazines, and ammunition to be shipped by Tropical Shipping via seaborne container freight shipment from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Croix.

The firearm, high capacity magazines, and ammunition thus traveled in or affected interstate commerce. On May 16, 2017, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted an inspection of an inbound Tropical Shipping freight container.

Upon inspection of a pallet of commercial goods destined for a local St. Croix business, CBP officers located the KEL TEC PLR-16 SemiAutomatic Pistol, the two high-capacity magazines for the firearm, and 206 rounds of 5.56x45mm ammunition hidden among a larger shipment of items for commercial use.

The box containing the firearm, high-capacity magazines, and ammunition bore a prior shipping label addressed to Payne at a Florida address. On May 17, 2017, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations special agents and other federal special agents conducted a controlled delivery of the firearm, high-capacity magazines, and ammunition.

Payne and the owner of the small business arrived at Tropical Shipping to receive the shipment. Payne was arrested after the pallet containing the KEL TEC PLR-16 Semiautomatic Pistol, high capacity magazines, and ammunition were loaded onto the pickup that was February being used to transport the pallet from Tropical Shipping.

Payne was previously convicted of three felony offenses: in 2000, for Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle; in 2001, for Resisting Officer with Violence, and in 2007, for Delivery of Cocaine, all in the Circuit Court for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, In and For Orange County, Florida.

This offense carries a possible sentence of incarceration of up to 10 years, a maximum fine of up to $250,000 dollars, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 22, 2019.

The case was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston prosecuted the case.

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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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