CHRISTIANSTED — An admitted kidnapper and burglar home for his aunt’s funeral told federal agents he brought four pounds of marijuana with him on the flight to St. Croix because he knew it was worth double what it is worth in Atlanta.
Ra’Kheel Velasquez, 23, of Georgia, was arrested on a warrant Friday and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute by a person on board an aircraft, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.
Velasquez made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge George Cannon Jr. on Saturday and was released after posting $2,500 cash or 10 percent of his $25,000 bond, according to court documents.
The case began March 10 when Homeland Security Investigations special agents were contacted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers about a man found with four pounds of marijuana at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, according to an affidavit filed by an Homeland Security special agent on May 7.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were conducting “Operation Gun Dog,” and while X-raying all inbound checked luggage, officers “detected an anomaly inside a large red suitcase.
Velasquez’s name was on the luggage tag, and agents inspected the bag and found packages of marijuana, according to the affidavit.
Agents said they allowed the luggage to continue to the baggage claim area, where they watched Velasquez pick it up. He was then escorted to a secondary inspection area. Velasquez told officers he had about four pounds of marijuana in the bag, and had arrived on a Delta flight from Atlanta for his aunt’s funeral, according to the affidavit.
“Velasquez stated that he heard prices for marijuana are higher in St. Croix and he brought the marijuana from Atlanta in order to sell,” according to the affidavit.
He told agents he grows marijuana at his Atlanta home and packaged it himself for the trip to St. Croix, where a cousin was going to pick him up from the airport and bring him to a relative’s home, where he would be staying.
In the search of Velasquez’s “large red suitcase” CBP discovered “suspected marijuana” which weighed approximately 1.76 kilograms.
The suspected marijuana was field tested by CBP officers and yielded a positive result for marijuana.
“Velasquez stated that he has been in and out of prison for seven years and that his first arrest was when he was 12 years old. Velasquez stated that his previous convictions included burglary and kidnapping,” according to the affidavit.
Velasquez served time in a Miami Dade County jail for “burglary of an occupied dwelling, structure or conveyance” starting in December 2016 and wasn’t released from prison until April of 2020. Florida court records indicate.
In Florida, burglary occurs where a person enters or remains in a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit a criminal offense therein. Burglary is a felony offense and carries severe penalties that will typically include prison and probation.
Many Virgin Islands Free Press readers have pointed out on social media that marijuana smugglers are no longer sentence to jail time by federal judges in the territory.
“What’s up with people (flying) weed into the Virgin Islands though???” Avis Ronan said on Facebook today. “And what makes them so emboldened???”
The current case against Velasquez is being investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa P. Ortiz.
United States Attorney Shappert reminds the public that a criminal complaint is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt.
Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.