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Dominican Coke Dealer Who Fled USVI After Beach Shootout Faces Charges Now

CHARLOTTE AMALIE— A Dominican coke dealer who fled the territory after a beach shootout with federal officers was returned to St. Thomas to face the music for his alleged crimes, authorities said.

Joan Morales Nolasco, of Santo Domingo, was arrested and appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ruth Miller for his initial appearance hearing, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Morales Nolasco was extradited from the Dominican Republic and is charged with Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers or Employees (18 U.S.C. § 111); Conspiracy to Traffic Controlled Substances and Attempt to Possess with Intent to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine (21 U.S.C. § 846); Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime (18 U.S.C. § 924); and Possession and Discharge of Firearms During and In Relation to a
Crime of Violence (18 U.S.C. § 924), according to Shappert.

The charges stem from a shooting involving Joan Morales Nolasco, Rammer Guerrero-Morales, and Samuel Elias Pena Columna, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Interdiction Agents in St. John, USVI on September 25, 2019, which took place during an attempted narcotics deal planned by the aforementioned defendants.

Guerrero Morales and Pena Columna were previously arrested and are currently awaiting trial. The three men face up to life in federal prison if convicted of the charges.

According to Court documents, on September 25, 2019, members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) conducted a maritime interdiction operation on the north coast of St. John, USVI, near Haulover Bay.

This area is a known smuggling location where traffickers offload large shipments of narcotics and U.S. currency. This location contains a trail that leads from the main road down to the beach of Haulover Bay.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Interdiction Agents observed two individuals, which were armed on a trail that leads down to the beach at Haulover Bay. The Agents identified themselves as “police”. Immediately thereafter, the individuals fired at the Agents.

One CBP Air and Marine Interdiction Agent was wounded by the rounds fired by the individuals. Defendant Guerrero Morales was wounded by shots fired in self-defense by CBP Air and Marine Agents. CBP Air and Marine Agents recovered two firearms at the scene, described as an AR-15 style .223 caliber rifle and a Glock .40 caliber pistol with an extended magazine.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Juan A. Albino.

An indictment contains mere allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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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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