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Two Arrested for Smuggling $287,000 To St. Thomas After High-Speed Chase Near Savana Island

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Two men have been charged with attempting to smuggling about $287,000 into St. Thomas by boat, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.

Arioc Diaz Melendez and Juan Carlos Diaz Melendez were arrested at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning and made their initial appearances in federal court on Monday afternoon in St. Thomas.

According to court documents, early Monday morning CBP Marine Unit agents identified a boat traveling without navigational lights north of Savana Island. CBP agents pulled their vessel alongside the 24-foot yola-type vessel that was operating without lights.

CBP agents activated their police blue lights and discharged a flare, in an effort to convince the other vessel to yield. When CBP agents attempted to initiate a stop, the other vessel did not yield but instead increased speed.

The CBP agents shot one round into one of the engines of the other vessel at which point the vessel decreased speed and stopped. The passenger threw a duffel bag overboard.

The bag was recovered by CBP agents and later found to contain roughly $287,000 in U.S. currency. After CBP agents disabled one of the boat’s motor, they boarded the vessel, and apprehended the two brothers.

The agents also recovered a Glock firearm.

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

It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Juan Albino.

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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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