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Boat Captain Pleads Guilty to Smuggling $287,660 Cash Into St. Thomas Near Savana Island

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Puerto Rican boat captain faces 10 years in prison after a guilty plea to attempting to smuggle about $287,000 cash into the territory by boat, authorities said.

Arioc Diaz Melendez, of San Juan, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller in the U.S. District Court on St. Thomas and entered a guilty plea to the charge of concealing $287,660.00 in U.S. currency while onboard a vessel outfitted for smuggling, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, on September 30, 2019, at approximately 2:00 A.M., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Unit (AMO) 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 $287,660.00 in U.S. currency and a Glock
firearm.

After CBP agents disabled one of the boat’s motors, they boarded the vessel, and apprehended the captain, who was later identified as Arioc Diaz Melendez, and the passenger, later identified as Jose Carlos Diaz Melendez.

The passenger is expected to plead guilty at a later court date.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

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

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