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Puerto Rican Man Who Smuggled $316,930 Into St. Thomas Faces 5 Years In Prison

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Puerto Rican man who falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of dollars he was smuggling on a boat to St. Thomas were legitimately earned “giving tourists diving tours” faces five years in prison, authorities said.

Blas Sebastian Panzardi Davila, 38, of San Juan pleaded guilty in federal court today to making a false statement to agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an executive agency of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, Davila was the sole individual operating a vessel traveling from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas. Onboard Davila’s vessel was a cooler containing $316,930 in United States currency.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction (CBP-MI) officers questioned Davila regarding the contents of the cooler, and defendant responded that he did not know what the cooler contained. CBP-MI officers opened the cooler and discovered the currency, and Davila denied ownership.

HSI agents arrived and questioned Davila regarding ownership of the currency. he then claimed the currency belonged to him. Asked how he earned the money, Davila stated that he earned it while giving tourists diving tours in Puerto Rico. Asked how much currency was in the cooler, Davila said that it was approximately $100,000.

According to court documents, defendant made his false statements to agents of HSI, an agency of the Executive Branch of the government of the United States. The $316,930 in U.S. currency and the vessel operated by Davila were administratively forfeited by HSI.

Davila is scheduled to be sentenced on January 27, 2022 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

This case was investigated by Customs Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDET identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, g angs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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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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