CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Two Puerto Rican men who tried to smuggle at least $1 million cash into the territory by boat have been given sentences of three years and 2.5 years respectively by a federal judge.
Abnel Belordo Colón, 29, and Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colón, 25, were sentenced last Thursday for possession of more than $1 million in cash onboard a vessel outfitted for smuggling, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy, sentenced Abnel Colon to 37 months of incarceration, a term of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $100 special assessment. Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colon was sentenced to 30 months of incarceration, a term of supervised release and ordered
to pay a $100 special assessment.
According to court documents, on or about September 20, 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit agents were conducting border security patrols near the west side of St. Thomas.
At 10:50 p.m., the agents made radar contact with a vessel traveling eastward toward St. Thomas roughly three miles north of Savana Island, within the territorial waters of the United States.
When agents intercepted the vessel, it was traveling without lights and failed to stop after agents activated their blue lights.
Agents observed two men throwing large bags overboard into the
water. Agents fired flares in an attempt to have the vessel stop, but the vessel did not stop, and so agents disabled the vessel’s motor.
CBP agents then boarded the boat and found two men on
board, Abnel Belordo Colón and Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colón. Each man was identified as the men who were throwing the black bags overboard, and Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colón was identified as the pilot.
CBP agents later recovered the bags that had been thrown overboard, one of which had been weighted with a dumbbell, and the bags were found to contain over $1,100,000 in United States currency.
On board the vessel, which had been rented from a business in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, agents found 3-4 dumbbells with ropes attached, as well as a GPS device, which is generally used to pinpoint the location of jettisoned contraband so that it can be retrieved later.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Sleeper and Nathan Brooks.