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Career criminal gets 3.5 years for having fentanyl at airport

Career criminal gets 3.5 years for having fentanyl at airport

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A man with a long criminal history was given a light sentence by a federal judge despite being caught red-handed with dangerous drugs at the St. Thomas airport.

Tahir Donadelle, 43, of St. Thomas, will serve only 3.58 years in prison after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, U. S. Attorney Delia L. Smith said Monday.

Donadelle was sentenced on St. Thomas by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Molloy to 43 months incarceration, Smith said.

According to court documents, on September 8, 2022, Donadelle traveled from Atlanta, Georgia
to St. Thomas, and was randomly selected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a baggage
inspection upon arrival at the Cyril E. King Airport.

VIPD mug shot of Tahir Donadelle, 43, of St. Thomas.

During the inspection, officers discovered 14 vacuum-sealed packages inside Donadelle’s luggage, 11 of which contained marijuana.

The remaining three packages contained 964 light blue fentanyl pills bearing “M” on one side and “30”
on the other side.

Donadelle and his girlfriend had flown to St. Thomas from Georgia, and the CBP Passenger Analysis Unit flagged Donadelle as a person of interest “due to his criminal history,” according to the VIPD’s probable cause fact sheet.

Federal authorities said in court documents that Donadelle had been “random selected” for a search at the airport, while local law enforcement said the convict was singled out because of his long rap sheet.

“Across the United States, opioids, primarily fentanyl, killed over 80,000 people in 2021 alone,” Smith said. “Here in the Virgin Islands, we have thus far been spared the worst of the opioid epidemic, but this seizure of fentanyl by CBP officers shows that we are not immune. Fortunately, the vigilance and dedication of our law enforcement partners led to the interception of these deadly drugs, and we were able to convict those responsible. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep the Virgin Islands safe from this lethal scourge.”

Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge Eugene Thomas said that the “Virgin Islands community benefits when we arrest and prosecute those that attempt to smuggle these dangerous drugs into our territory.”

“Fentanyl is one of the deadliest drug threats that our nation has ever encountered. Our exceptional frontline officers work tirelessly to ensure this poison doesn’t make it through our borders and into our communities”, said Roberto Vaquero, Director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

In 2023, Elijah Hakim was sentenced to 85 months of incarceration after a federal jury found him guilty
in the first fentanyl conviction for the District of the Virgin Islands.

Also in 2023, VIPD reported three deaths related to fentanyl. The deadly narcotic has caused an epidemic in the United States, but documented cases in the Virgin Islands remain low.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection and Drug Enforcement Administration and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Payne.

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