2 Males Wearing Wendy’s Uniforms Hold Up Man At Gunpoint, Beat Him and Then Steal His Car: VIPD

CHRISTIANSTED — Two males wearing fast food worker uniforms and no masks held up a man as he was eating in his car, beat him and then stole his vehicle at gunpoint, authorities said.

The 911 Call Center dispatched officers to a robbery that occurred in the vicinity of Kiki’s Automotive, Estate Diamond Ruby at 7:10 p.m. on November 4, 2021, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

Officers responded and contacted the victim stating that at approximately 7:00 p.m., he was parked in his vehicle eating, when he was approached by two unknown males who were each wearing Wendy’s uniforms without masks on their faces and carrying a firearm, according to the VIPD. He stated that he was beaten by both men and that his vehicle was stolen at gunpoint.   

2 Males Wearing Wendy's Uniforms Hold Up Man At Gunpoint, Beat Him and Then Steal His Car: VIPD
CHARGED: Luis Navarro, Jr., 20, of Walter I.M. Hodge Pavilion

“An investigation was conducted, and the identity of the adult suspect was identified as Luis Navarro Jr., 20-years-old, VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.

A warrant for Navarro was sought and signed with a $75,000.00 bond by Superior Court Magistrate Brow Ross on May 25, 2022. In it he was charged with first-degree robbery, unauthorized possession of a firearm, third-degree assault, unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to Dratte.

Members of the VIPD’s Special Operations Bureau apprehended Luis Navarro Jr. without incident today, police said.

Luis Navarro Jr. was processed and transported to the John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility in Estate Golden Grove pending further court action.

The advice-of-rights hearing for Navarro is scheduled for Monday, June 27, 2022.  

The other suspect is a minor, and the investigation is being “processed,” according to police.

Woman Upset Her Father Was Arrested Is Charged With Aggravated Assault For Spitting On Officer

FREDERIKSTED A St. Croix woman upset with police because her father was arrested spit on an officer in front of police headquarters and was arrested herself, according to Superior Court documents.

Luisa Navarro, of St. Croix, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery and disturbance of the peace, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

A VIPD officer stated she was standing in front of the Wilbur H. Francis Command in Mars Hill at 12:50 p.m. Thursday when she observed an unknown Hispanic female who was “cursing and yelling” at officers in the parking lot saying she will catch them when they are off duty and “box off (their) mother scunt,” the probable cause fact sheet states.

The woman later identified as Luisa Navarro was upset because her father, Luis Angel Navarro, had been recently arrested for carrying-using a deadly weapon, according to the sworn police affidavit.

Woman Upset Her Father Was Arrested Is Charged With Aggravated Assault For Spitting On Officer
VIPD mugshot of Luis Angel Navarro

“Ms. Navarro continued to curse at the officers,” the probable cause fact sheet states. “Ms. Navarro then turned to Police Officer F.C., and she spat on his right leg.”

The officer who observed the incident told Navarro that she was under arrest for spitting on a police officer and told her to put her hands behind her back. the sworn police affidavit states.

“Ms. Navarro refused to put her hands behind her back after being told to do so about two times,” according to Superior Court documents.

A police sergeant then took each of Navarro’s hands and placed them behind her back.

“Ms Navarro resisted and still refused to be handcuffed,” the probable cause fact sheet states. “(Another) police sergeant then assisted by placing Ms. Navarro in a control hold, he walked her into the station and he placed her into the cell without further incident.”

Woman Upset Her Father Was Arrested Is Charged With Aggravated Assault For Spitting On Officer
VIPD mugshot of Luisa Navarro

Luisa Navarro was transported to the John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility pending further court action.

All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this report are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE: Man Blazing Marijuana While Speeding Gives Cops Probable Cause To Search His Vehicle

CHRISTIANSTED A St. Croix man smoking marijuana and driving at a high rate of speed in Christiansted town quickly got the attention of police on Thursday night.

Officers with the Special Operations Bureau (SOB) conducted a traffic stop on a 2015 Black Toyota Corolla at 10:45 p.m. Thursday on King Street in Christiansted, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

“While at a stop, officers smelled a strong odor of what appeared to be marijuana emanating from inside of the vehicle,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.   

A search was conducted of the vehicle and two black handguns were discovered inside of the vehicle, according to Dratte.

ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE: Man Blazing Marijuana While Speeding Gives Cops Probable Cause To Search His Vehicle
CHARGED: John Carlos Ventura, 27, of St. Croix

“One handgun was discovered inside of the glove compartment and the second handgun was discovered inside of a black Backpack on the rear passenger seat along with a wallet bearing Mr. Ventura’s passport card and other identification,” he said.   

When asked about a license to possess either of the firearms, Mr. Ventura stated “No.”   

John Carlos Ventura, 27, was immediately placed under arrest and charged for Carrying of an unlicensed Firearm Openly or Concealed and Carrying of an unlicensed Firearm Openly or Concealed. The bail was set at $50,000. Ventura was remanded to John A. Bell Correctional Facility pending his advice-of-rights hearing. 

Windward Islands Warily Watching Tropics With ‘Bonnie’ Brewing In Caribbean

MIAMI A tropical depression or storm may develop in the eastern Atlantic and head toward the Windward Islands, then into the Caribbean Sea next week as the first month of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season comes to a close.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently monitoring an area of showers and thunderstorms – referred to by meteorologists as Invest 94L several hundred miles off the coast of western Africa.

An invest is an area that the NHC is watching closely using advanced computer models and other resources.

Windward Islands Warily Watching Tropics With 'Bonnie' Brewing In Caribbean

These thunderstorms are caused by a weather disturbance known as a tropical wave – an elongated area of low pressure generated over Africa that moves westward into the Atlantic every three to four days during hurricane season.

These tropical waves are often seeds of future tropical storms and hurricanes.

In this case, the NHC suggests development could occur by early next week in the area circled in the map below. Over the past several days, many computer forecast models have also been suggesting development is possible.

If this system becomes a tropical storm, it would be named “Bonnie.”

Whether or not development happens, it appears this system will arrive in the Windward Islands Tuesday night or Wednesday with increased showers and gusty winds at the very least.

For now, those in the Windward Islands should monitor the forecast for changes over the next several days.

Beyond that, forecast models suggest the system will continue moving west or west-northwest into the Caribbean Sea late next week. It’s far too soon to tell what, if any, impacts it may have in the Caribbean.

Cane Bay Partners Faces Another Class-Action Lawsuit By A Native American Group Over Predatory Payday Loans

MADISON — St. Croix-based business Cane Bay Partners and founding co-owners David Johnson and Kirk Chewning are facing a class-action lawsuit over an alleged nationwide payday lending program that imposed exorbitant annual interest rates while using Native American tribes as a front to evade state usury laws, according to a complaint filed June 22, 2022 in the western district court of Wisconsin.

According to the complaint, Cane Bay Partners is essentially running “Dimension Credit,” the lending service, based in the Cayman Islands, at the center of the lawsuit. It says Dimension charges extreme annual interest rates up to 790 percent for payday loans of no more than $2,500.

In an effort to avoid state and federal regulations on usurious lending schemes, Cane Bay Partners allegedly hid behind the MHA Nation, a native American group composed of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes located in Fort Berthold, a remote reservation in North Dakota, the lawsuit alleged. While the MHA Nation acts as the tribal lender on paper, Cane Bay Partners directs the lending operation, leaving only a small percentage of the profits with the tribes, according to the lawsuit.

Cane Bay Partners Faces Another Class-Action Lawsuit By A Native American Group Over Predatory Payday Loans
First page of the 28-page complaint filed against Cane Bay Partners in U.S. District Court on Wednesday

“Kirk Chewning, through Cane Bay and Dimension Credit, orchestrated a scheme to exercise de facto control over the Tribe’s lending businesses to facilitate an illegal lending
enterprise and charge consumers up to 730 percent annual interest for loan.,” court documents indicate. “Defendants, playing on the Tribe’s desperate desire to diversify its limited economy by creating new opportunities and governmental support for its people, held themselves out as industry experts and successful businessmen willing to consult on the development of, and provide services for, the Tribe’s lending venture. However, unbeknownst to the Tribe, Chewning and Cane Bay really sought the framework of a thinly-veiled, carefully structured “rent-a-tribe” scheme — a business that was tribally owned and operated on paper, but in reality, merely a front for non-tribal companies and
individuals to continue their illegal offshore operations and skim money from the Tribe.”

Cane Bay Partners faced a similar class-action lawsuit by a Native American tribe in Maryland in April.

Cane Bay Partners Faces Another Class-Action Lawsuit By A Native American Group Over Predatory Payday Loans
David Johnson (left) and Kirk Chewning (right) of Cane Bay Partners in St. Croix.

Cane Bay Partners is an Economic Development Commission (EDC) company, receiving tax breaks such as a 90 percent reduction in corporate income and personal income taxes.

Largest Bacteria In The World Is Found In Caribbean Swamps, Genome Institute Says

Giant bacteria found in Guadeloupe mangroves challenges traditional concepts

BASSE-TERRE (Reuters) The largest-known bacterium – a vermicelli-shaped organism that was discovered in shallow mangrove swamps in the Caribbean and is big enough to be seen with the naked eye – is redefining what is possible for bacteria, Earth’s most ancient life form.

Scientists said on Thursday the bacterium, called Thiomargarita magnifica, is noteworthy not merely for its size colossal for a single-celled organism at up to about eight-tenths of an inch (2 cm) long but also because its internal architecture is unlike other bacteria.

The DNA, an organism’s blueprint, is not free-floating inside the cell like in most bacteria but contained within numerous small membrane-bound sacs. Membrane-bound structures in cells are called organelles.

“It is thousands of times larger than regular-sized bacteria. Discovering this bacterium is like encountering a human being as tall as Mount Everest,” said marine biologist Jean-Marie Volland of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute and the Laboratory for Research in Complex Systems in California, a co-leader of the study published in the journal Science http://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adc9387.

The bacterium has been found in several locations in Guadeloupe, a French archipelago in the Caribbean. It was first spotted in the sulfur-rich seawater of a Guadeloupe swamp by Université des Antilles microbiologist and study co-leader Olivier Gros.

“In 2009, I found long white filaments attached to a sunken leaf of a mangrove tree. I found such filaments intriguing. I brought them back to the lab to analyze them,” Gros said. “Big surprise for me to have so huge a bacterium living in the mangroves of Guadeloupe.”

A normal bacterial species measures 1-5 micrometers long. This species averages 10,000 micrometers (four-tenths of an inch/1 cm) long, with some Thiomargarita magnifica twice that length.

“It is orders of magnitude bigger than what we thought was the maximum possible size for a single bacterium,” Volland said. “They are about the same size and shape of an eyelash.”

The largest-known bacterium until now had a maximum length around 750 micrometers.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that reside nearly everywhere on the planet, vital to its ecosystems and most living things. Bacteria are thought to have been the first organisms to inhabit Earth and remain quite simple in structure billions of years later. The bodies of people are teeming with bacteria, only a relatively small number of which cause disease.

Thiomargarita magnifica is not the largest-known single-celled organism. That honor goes to the aquatic alga Caulerpa taxifolia, reaching 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) long.

Caribbean mangrove swamps are packed with organic matter, with microbes in the sediment degrading this matter and producing high concentrations of sulfur. The sulfur-rich environment offers an energy source for bacteria like Thiomargarita magnifica.

The researchers named its DNA-bearing organelles “pepins” after a French word for small seeds inside fruits.

“Aside from two exceptions, there were no other bacteria known to keep their DNA inside a membrane-bound organelle. That is, in fact, a characteristic of more complex cells which have a membrane-bound nucleus, such as human cells, or animal and plant cells,” Volland said.

Mapping its genome showed that Thiomargarita magnifica has lost some genes essential for cell division and has more than the usual number of copies of genes responsible for cell elongation.

“This may explain, in part, why the cell grows into such an elongated filament. The genome is also very big and contains three times the average number of genes that are usually found in bacteria. Half of those genes, we have no idea what are they for,” Volland said.

This bacterium illustrates how life on Earth still has surprises awaiting discovery, he said.

“Life is fascinating, very diverse and very complex,” Volland added. “It’s important to stay curious and have an open mind.”

–REUTERS

(Reporting by Will Dunham, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Suspect Wanted For The Murder Of His 70-Year-Old Uncle In Constitution Hill Extradited From Boston

CHRISTIANSTED  A man wanted in connection to a murder of his septuagenarian uncle near Sunny Isle that took place 21 months ago has been extradited back to St. Croix to face charges.

Nesto Monell, 42, is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree assault and carrying or using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

Bail for Monell is set at 1,000,000.00, as per the warrant. 

On September 14, 2020, at 10:35 p.m., members of the Criminal Investigation 

Bureau travel to a residence in Constitution Hill, Christiansted to investigate an incident involving a male individual who was found outside of his home unconscious. 

The male was later identified as Abraham Ortiz. Investigation revealed that 70-year-old Abraham Ortiz and his nephew Nesto Monell were involved in an argument and Monell followed Ortiz to his residence and attacked him, according to the VIPD.

Suspect Wanted For The Murder Of His 70-Year-Old Uncle In Constitution Hill Extradited From Boston
VIPD mugshot of Nesto Monell

As a result of the attack Mr. Ortiz sustained a severe head injury. He was airlifted to Miami, Florida, Jackson Memorial Hospital where he remained under medical care until he died from his injuries on January 18, 2022.

Monell fled the territory and was detained in Boston, Massachusetts, on a Virgin Islands Police Department warrant. Monell fought extradition back to the territory and a Governor’s warrant was obtained and served to the authorities in Boston, VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.  

The suspect was turned over to the Virgin Islands Police Department’s contingent at an extradition hearing on June 22, 2022, and returned to St. Croix to face the charges as it relates to the death of Abraham Ortiz, according to Dratte.

“This case is proof that when everyone plays their part, we are able to bring closure and justice to the victims and their families,” St. Croix Chief Detective Lt. Naomi Joseph said. “This world is small, and we will travel to the end of the earth to get you.” 

Suspect Wanted For The Murder Of His 70-Year-Old Uncle In Constitution Hill Extradited From Boston
PERP WALK: Nesto Monell fought extradition from Boston. Now that he is in St. Croix again, he faces homicide charges and a possible sentence of life in prison. A “Nesto Monell” has a listing on LinkedIn in Boston on the Internet. (Photos by the VIPD)

IN POT WE TRUST: Queens Man Gets Zero Jail Time For Bringing Gobs of Ganja In His Luggage To The USVI

U.S. District Court Judges In The U.S. Virgin Islands Are Greenlighting Marijuana Smugglers

CHARLOTTE AMALIE Federal judges in the U.S. Virgin Islands are making it crystal clear to defendants whether you bring three pounds or 40 pounds of marijuana in your checked luggage you will get no prison time for smuggling the drug to our ganja-crazy territory.

Case in point is Christopher Dunn, 49, of Queens, New York, who was sentenced to four years of probation by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy on his conviction of
possession with intent to distribute 1.37 kilograms of marijuana. Judge Molloy also
ordered Dunn to pay a $2,000.00 fine, and a $100.00 special assessment.
According to the evidence presented at trial, on February 11, 2021, Dunn arrived at the Cyril E. King airport a flight from JFK New York.

IN POT WE TRUST: Queens Man Gets Zero Jail Time For Bringing Gobs of Ganja In His Luggage To The USVI

While conducting flight inspections, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered a green leafy substance in Dunn’s carry-on luggage.

CBP officers then escorted Dunn to secondary inspection where they conducted a thorough search of Dunn’s carry-on bags and discovered three vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana weighing approximately 1.37 kilograms (about three pounds).
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces
(OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highestlevel 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. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and CBP investigated.

Assistant United States Attorney Natasha Baker prosecuted this case.

Bank Teller Who Issued Phantom ATM Cards Gets One Year In Prison For Stealing $43,418

CHARLOTTE AMALIE A teller who used her knowledge of bank operations to issue credit cards in other’s names for her own personal use in order to defraud customers out of $43,418 got one year in prison from a federal judge.

Natasha Seetaram, 39, of St. Thomas, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy to 12 months and one day of incarceration, followed by four years of supervised release for bank fraud, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith said.
According to court records, Seetaram formerly worked at a St. Thomas branch
of Banco Popular where she used her position as a bank employee to issue debit cards
in the names of two unknowing bank customers.

After issuing the ATM debit cards, Seetaram used the cards for her own personal benefit by making fraudulent ATM withdrawals and purchases in the amount of approximately $43,000.00 in St. Thomas and Jacksonville, Florida. The two victims were subsequently reimbursed by the bank and Seetaram was ordered by the court to pay restitution to the bank in the amount of $43,418.76.

Comments on social media suggested that this might not be the only case out there for investigators to consider.

“Over $20,000 stolen from a Banco Popular card that was in my wallet too!” Michelle Felder said on Facebook. “I signed up for alerts for purchases over $500 and never got a call, text or email.”
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. It was prosecuted
by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands.

Governors Urge Quick Action On The Bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act

WASHINGTON National Governors Association’s Community Renewal Task Force Co-Chairs Governors Mike Parson and Albert Bryan, Jr. released the following statement on the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act.

The act was introduced by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) and House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

“We are pleased that the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act has been introduced to support access to summer meals, allow children who are eligible to receive reduced-price school meals to receive free school meals, and streamline access to healthy meals for children in family child care. If Congress does not act before June 30 these USDA waivers will expire. Many of our schools across the country are still facing challenges, and this temporary extension will provide support to deal with ongoing food service issues. We urge Congress to act swiftly and pass this legislation.”