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5 Men In Cocaine Trafficking Ring Busted At Havensight Mall: USAO

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Five St. Thomas men were arrested on illegal drug charges at the Havensight Mall on Thursday, authorities said.

Matthew Hazel, Jose Solano, Andrew Wilson, Cesar Thomas, and Lodwin Ashton were each charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 11 pounds of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said. All five men made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court today, Shappert said.

According to court documents, on October 13, 2021, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Confidential Source (CS) met with Jose Solano to discuss the purchase of 25 kilograms of cocaine in St Thomas.

During the meeting, Solano agreed to sell the CS twenty-five kilograms of cocaine for $312,000. Cesar Thomas was also present with Solano during the meeting. Solano agreed to conduct the transaction on the following day.

On October 14, 2021, at approximately, 4:01 p.m., agents and the CS arrived at the Havensight Mall, St. Thomas, which was the agreed-upon location for the CS to meet up with Solano for the 25-kilogram exchange.

At approximately 4:03 p.m., agents observed Solano arrive in a black Toyota Tacoma. Solano parked in the area between the Smoking Rooster and the Post Office, next to where the CS was located. Solano then exited the Tacoma a short time later.

Subsequently, a black Honda Civic, arrived, driven by Cesar Thomas with Andrew Wilson in the front passenger seat. Thomas and Wilson parked in the vicinity of Solano’s vehicle; both exited the vehicle and congregated around both the Honda and the Tacoma for about 45 minutes to an hour.

During that time, federal agents observed Wilson on his phone several times, while pacing through the parking lot. Agents also observed Wilson using hand gestures to direct a dark colored Jeep Wrangler and black G35 Infiniti to his location in the Havensight Mall parking lot.

The two cars—the Jeep, followed by the Infiniti—arrived on scene at approximately 4:44 p.m.. The Jeep, a dark-colored Jeep Wrangler, was driven by Lodwin Ashton.

After Ashton parked the Jeep in the same vicinity as the CS, the Tacoma, and the Honda Civic, agents observed Thomas and Wilson approach the Jeep and talk with Ashton. Moments later, the black G35 Infiniti sedan, which bore no license plate, joined the group. The Infiniti was driven by Matthew Hazel, and Jenel Smith was in the back seat.

Agents observed Thomas and Wilson approach Hazel and converse with him. Moments later, agents observed Hazel exit the G35 Infiniti as the trunk of the vehicle sprung open.

Agents then observed Thomas, Hazel, and the CS at the rear of the G35 looking into the trunk. Moments later, agents observed Hazel close the trunk as the CS gave a signal to the agents, confirming the presence of kilograms of suspected cocaine to be present within the G35 Infinity.

Agents arrested Solano, Thomas, Wilson, Ashton, Hazel, and Smith, who were later transported to the DEA St. Thomas Resident Office for processing.

After the arrest, agents recovered approximately 25 brick-like packages of suspected cocaine from the trunk of the G35 Infinity and one loaded semi-automatic Walther Arms handgun; model PPX; bearing serial number FBB2800, which Hazel was sitting on in the driver’s seat.

Agents also recovered a second loaded semi-automatic handgun from the Jeep Wrangler, which was located
underneath the steering wheel.

This case is being investigated jointly by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), Air Marine Operations (AMO), Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).

It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Meredith Edwards and Juan Albino.
United States

Attorney Shappert reminds the public that a complaint is merely a formal charging document, and it is not evidence of guilt.

Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found 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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