CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Puerto Rican man who came to St. Thomas with more than $300,000 in cold cash stuffed into the cooler on his boat got less than one year in prison from a federal judge.
Blas Sebastian Panzardi Davila, 38, of San Juan, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy to six months in prison and two years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.
According to court documents, Davila was the sole operator of a vessel traveling without lights from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas on January 14, 2021. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air Marine Interdiction Unit pulled alongside the vessel and inquired of the lack of lights on the vessel. Davila responded that the lights were not working.
CBP marine boarded the vessel and discovered a large white cooler, and Davila denied knowing the contents of the cooler. Officers opened the cooler which contained $316,930 in United States currency. HSI agents subsequently questioned the defendant about the currency, and Davila initially lied regarding his knowledge of the currency and whether he owned it.
Davila subsequently acknowledged ownership of the funds. The $ 316,930 in U.S. currency and the vessel operated by Davila were administratively forfeited by HSI.
As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, Davila only admitted to lying to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents about the cash he had on board.
This case was investigated by U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter.
This prosecution was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, 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.