FREDERIKSTED — Two St. Thomas men suspected of involvement in an attempt to smuggle at least 13 pounds of marijuana aboard an American Airlines flight to St. Croix were arrested on Thursday, authorities said.
Two additional men also implicated in the marijuana smuggling operation have been previously convicted of weapons crimes on St. Thomas, U.S. District Court documents indicate.
Federal agents returned the bags to the luggage conveyor belt and detained Bryan Rudolph, who retrieved one of the bags, according to a sworn affidavit filed in court. Agents continued to scan other passengers, and approached two men, Tarik Babrow and Jah’var Looby, “who had a distinct odor of marijuana emanating from their clothing or luggage,” and were at the Seaborne Airline counter booking a flight to St. Thomas.
Agents escorted the trio to a secure inspection area and found a quantity of marijuana in their luggage “indicative of distribution,” according to the affidavit.
Agents said Looby also had 20 THC vaping cartridges, an amount they called “distribution level” stating “a traveler coming to the territory for a brief period of time would not be able to smoke the amount of plant-based marijuana and THC vaping cartridges found in the possession of Looby,” according to court documents.
Inside Babrow’s bag, agents reportedly found seven vacuum-sealed bundles containing 3.3 pounds of marijuana, and agents also seized $2,871 in cash from him. The affidavit said Rudolph’s luggage contained 3 pounds, and in Looby’s bag, agents said they found 2.93 pounds of “marijuana/THC oil.”
A fourth man, Antonio Walker, was seen on surveillance video hanging around the baggage area and using the nearby bathroom, long after most travelers had left the airport, according to the sworn affidavit. Federal agents suspected Walker “may have attempted to hide or discard additional narcotics” in the bathroom and detained him.
Inside Walker’s bag, agents said they found a bundle of marijuana identical to those found in the three other bags, and bundles of marijuana were found in a bathroom trashcan, along with a T-shirt and shoe.
Agents searched Walker’s luggage and found “the matching shoe to the one recovered in the trash receptacle,” according to the affidavit. The marijuana attributed to Walker totaled just under 4.7 pounds.
Investigators attempted to interview all four men, but only Rudolph and Walker waived their right to remain silent and made statements.
The 23-year-old Babrow of St. Thomas and 31-year-old Looby of Hospital Ground appeared for an arraignment hearing at U.S. District Court in Golden Rock before U.S. Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon, Jr., U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.
Babrow and Looby’s initial court appearance Friday showed they were each charged with conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute by person on board aircraft, Shappert said.
Babrow and Looby are charged as co-defendants under the same complaint with three crimes each: conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute by persons onboard an aircraft.
Criminal charges have not been filed against Rudolph and Walker, according to public court records.
Babrow was arrested in Georgia in 2014 as a fugitive from justice, prosecutors wrote in a motion to set bond, and “apparently, this arrest stemmed from a juvenile armed robbery charge in St. Thomas for which the defendant was ultimately convicted.”
Looby, whose first name is spelled in Virgin Islands police records as “Jah’var” was arrested in April 2016 for possession of an unlicensed firearm in the Hospital Ground area of St. Thomas, and federal prosecutors said he was later convicted of that charge.
“Other than bringing drugs through the Henry E. Rohlsen airport here on St. Croix, the government is not aware of any ties that either defendant has to this community,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Huston wrote in the motion filed Friday.
Huston requested that bond be set at $20,000 for each man, with the provision that they may post 10% of that amount in cash to be released.
Magistrate Judge George Cannon Jr. granted the motion Friday, and said both men may be freed to the custody of suitable third-party custodians and must remain under other conditions while they await trial.
Federal prosecutors also filed charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and aiding and abetting against a fifth man, Christopher Dunn, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday, which lists the date of the offense as Thursday, February 11.
But an affidavit detailing the complaint has not been made public, and it’s unclear from available court documents whether Dunn is connected to the four other men arrested on St. Croix.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers said Thursday they found packaged marijuana in several pieces of luggage during a search of incoming bags associated with four men on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, N.C., according to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Police put out a wanted poster on Babrow on Sunday March 7 in connection to a shooting that happened on Veteran’s Drive in St. Thomas five days earlier.
United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert reminds the public that an arrest warrant is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt.
Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.