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Two Men Nabbed By Border Patrol After $800,000 Thrown Off Boat Near Savana Island

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Federal money-laundering complaints have been filed against two men for attempting to smuggle approximately $800,000 into St. Thomas by boat, authorities said.

Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colon and Abnel Belordo Colon were arrested Friday evening and made their initial appearances in federal court on Saturday in St. Thomas, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, late Friday evening CBP Marine Unit agents noticed a boat traveling without navigational lights about three miles north of Savana Island.

When CBP agents attempted to initiate a stop, the two men on the boat began throwing bags overboard. The bags were later found to contain roughly $800,000 in U.S. currency.

After CBP agents disabled the boat’s motor, they boarded the vessel, apprehended the two men, and recovered multiple dumbbells with ropes attached.

According to court documents, dumbbells tied to ropes are often used to ensure that contraband materials thrown overboard will sink to the bottom, enabling the contraband to be recovered later, using GPS.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nathan Brooks.

Shappert said that a criminal complaint is merely a formal charging document and it is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” she said.

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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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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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