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Previously Removed Dominican Republic Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Re-Entering The USA

CHRISTIANSTED — A previously-deported Dominican Republic national who used a fake ID to try to board a flight from St. Croix to Florida has admitted to his guilt in federal court, authorities said.

Reynaldo Mejia-Mejia, of Santo Domingo, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge George Cannon, Jr. to illegally reentering the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, Reynaldo Mejia-Mejia, 33, presented himself to U.S. Customs
and Border Protection (CBP) officers for inspection to board a Spirit airlines flight from St. Croix to Fort Lauderdale on March 23, 2022. He displayed a Washington State driver’s
license in the name of another individual with a photo of his likeness as proof of identification to
travel.

During questioning at the primary inspection, Mejia stated that he was born in Puerto Rico;
however, the CBP officer noticed that Mejia’s accent sounded distinctive to the Dominican
Republic. A subsequent fingerprint check positively identified Mr. Mejia-Mejia, and record
checks revealed that he was previously deported by immigration officials in 2018 and 2019 from
the United States to the Dominican Republic.

CBP officers determined that Mejia-Mejia is not a citizen or national of the United States. Reynaldo Mejia-Mejia is in fact a citizen and national of the Dominican Republic, and he was not in possession of the required legal documents to be present or to enter the United States.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Ortiz is prosecuting the case.

Mejia-Mejia is scheduled to be sentenced on August 18, 2022, He faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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St. Croix Janitor Who Stuffed Cocaine Into Life Vests On Airplane To Get At Least 10 Years

CHRISTIANSTED — A St. Croix janitor who stuffed cocaine into airplane life vests for two accomplices to pick up the next day will get at least 10 years in prison for drug smuggling, authorities said.

Luis Ortiz, Jr., 25, of St. Croix pleaded guilty on March 1, 2022, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said. Ortiz remains on supervised release pending sentencing.

According to court documents, on June 20, 2019, Ortiz and a co-defendant recruited two individuals to smuggle five bricks of cocaine from St. Croix to Miami, Florida, onboard American Airlines flight #2227 on July 11, 2019.

On the evening of July 10, 2019, surveillance footage from the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport captured Ortiz, who was employed as a contractor to clean the aircrafts, boarding the American Airlines aircraft wearing an oversized jacket. While onboard, Ortiz walked directly to rows 17 and 18 and closed the windows of both rows. Eight minutes later, Ortiz exited the aircraft carrying packages that were consistent in size with the life vests that were removed from rows 17 and 18.

Later that morning, Ortiz’s co-defendant arranged with an American Airlines gate agent to pre-board two persons who were later identified as the smugglers. Once onboard, Ortiz’s codefendant instructed one of the two smugglers to retrieve cocaine from the life vest compartments located under seats 17A and 17B.

Flight #2227 departed the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport at approximately 8:00 a.m., and upon its arrival in Miami at approximately 11:00 a.m., the two smugglers were arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Both pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and were sentenced in the Southern District of Florida District Court.

At sentencing, Ortiz faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years of incarceration and a maximum fine of $10,000,000.00. Ortiz also faces a term of five years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100.00.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, St Croix Resident Office, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Delia Smith.

The investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the
United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-vi/pr/st-croix-man-pleads-guilty-stashing-five-kilograms-cocaine-life-vest-compartments-onboard

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St. Croix Habitual Offender Deshawn Gonsalves Gets 4 Years In Prison On Gun Charge

CHRISTIANSTED — U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced that a St. Croix man, Deshawn Gonsalves, 27, appeared before Judge Wilma A. Lewis, in U.S. District Court, and was sentenced today on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

Judge Lewis sentenced Gonsalves to 48 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, a fine of $1,000, and a $100 special assessment.

According to court documents, on October 31, 2018, officers with the Virgin Islands Police Department responded to an apparent domestic dispute and 911 call at the Lorraine Village Apartments in Grove Place. 

Upon their interaction with Gonsalves, he admitted that he possessed a firearm and ammunition in his vehicle. A search of the vehicle revealed a loaded Glock .45 caliber handgun, two additional magazines, 77 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, a ballistic vest, and approximately 98 grams of marihuana packaged in plastic baggies and vials. 

Additionally, the defendant possessed the firearm and marijuana within 1,000 feet of the Eulalie Rivera Elementary School. Gonsalves was previously convicted in Superior Court in 2014 of Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm. 

The case was investigated by the Virgin Islands Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston prosecuted the case. 

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community.

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St. Thomas Man Charged With Smuggling 12 Pounds Of Cocaine At Cyril E. King Airport

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A man was arrested at the St. Thomas airport and charged with smuggling 12.1 pounds of cocaine, authorities said.

According to U.S. District Court documents, Tyree “Ballers Man” Morton transported cocaine, weighing approximately 5.5 kilograms, including packaging, from a location within the Cyril E. King airport to another location within the airport.

Morton is charged with possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a) & (b)(1)(B)(ii)

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Morton said on social media that he graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) and attends the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI).

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Sleeper is prosecuting the case.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation.

OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Dominican and Puerto Rican Indicted By Grand Jury For Bringing Illegal Migrants By Sea

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A federal Grand Jury returned a seven-count Bill of Indictment against Alejo Ocasio Venerio, 31, of Puerto Rico, and Franklyn Grullon Jorge, 44, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, charging them each with transporting illegal aliens on their vessel, United States Attorney Gretchen Shappert said.

The Indictment stems from an incident occurring on January 12, 2022, when federal agents observed Venerio and Grullon Jorge boarding seven illegal nationals from India onto their vessel for the purpose of transporting them to Puerto Rico. Under federal law, the two men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

United States Attorney Shappert reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Everard E. Potter.

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Haitian Illegal Deported From Florida 4 Years Ago Shows Up In St. Thomas Airport On Monday

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Haitian illegal who was deported from Miami nearly four years ago tried to sneak back into the United States in St. Thomas, authorities said.

Dunford Joseph, 36, a citizen of Haiti was arrested on Monday at the Cyril E. King Airport on a criminal charge stemming from his illegal reentry into the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, Joseph presented himself to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for inspection at the Cyril E. King Airport in hopes of boarding a flight to Orlando, Florida. Records checks revealed that Dunord Joseph had previously been removed from Miami, Florida, on December 18, 2018, and there is no record of him having obtained the express consent of the Secretary of Homeland Security to reapply for admission prior to being found back in the United States on February 14, 2022.

Dunord Joseph is charged with a violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a)(1) for returning to and remaining in the United States after having been removed, denied admission, excluded or deported and doing so without the express consent of the Secretary of Homeland Security to reapply for admission. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to two years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is investigating the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a

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Plaza Extra Cashier With 167 Pounds Of Marijuana In Luggage Gets No Jail Time

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A former Plaza Extra cashier with 167 pounds of marijuana stashed into three minors’ suitcases traveling with her but not related to her got time served from a federal judge.

Idesha Patricia Sterrod, 32, was sentenced to time served and two years of supervised release for attempting to smuggle 76 kilograms of marijuana through the Cyril E. King Airport, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, on August 5, 2020, Sterrod traveled from California to the Cyril E. King Airport with several suitcases containing marijuana. Sterrod was traveling with three minor females, ages 12, 14, and 15, who are not related to her.

While Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were conducting an inspection of the checked luggage, the CBP canine alerted to the scent of a controlled substance on a suitcase. Sterrod was observed retrieving the suitcases containing marijuana from the baggage claim area. Each of the three minor females also had a checked bag that was tagged in the minors’ names which contained marijuana.

Sterrod previously pled guilty in this case on May 17, 2021 to possession with intent to distribute
marijuana.

This case was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).

This effort was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at
https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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BVI Man Arrested For Bringing Four Haitian Nationals Into Territory

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A British Virgin Islands native was charged today with trying to smuggle four Haitian nationals into the territory.

Ernest Williams, 25, of Road Town, Tortola, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with bringing aliens into the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Daline Ambroise, 23, Presuma Venette, 19, Paul Jn Augustine, 36, and Jordan Ambroise, 36, all nationals of Haiti were also arrested today on criminal complaints charging each of them with illegal entry into the United States, according to Shappert.

Williams, Ambroise, Venette, Jn Augustine, and Ambroise all made their initialappearances before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller and were detained pending further proceedings.

According, to the complaint, Wiliams was operating a boat that was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) coming from the British Virgin Islands.

The agents observed that Williams was operating the boat with no lights. Afterthe boat was stopped, AMO agents identified six people besides Williams onboard.

After inspection, the agents determined that none of the people were American citizens.

Those people onboard were identified as Ambroise, Venette, Jn Augustine, Ambroise and two unaccompanied minors from Haiti who did not have permission to enter the United States.

If convicted of bringing aliens into the United States, Williams faces a sentence up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

If convicted of illegal entry, Ambroise, Venette, Jn Augustine andAmbroise face a maximum sentence of six months and a $5,000 fine.

The case is being investigated Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Unit (AMO).

It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

Shappert said that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty,” she said.

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Two South American Men Get Seven Weeks In Prison For Illegal Entry

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Two South American men were given just over seven weeks in prison for coming to the United States illegally.

Dionis Luiz Gomez, 31, of Venezuela and Roman Perez Hernandez, 34, of Argentina were sentenced today to 52 days for illegal entry, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller also ordered Gomez and Hernandez to each pay a $10 special assessment.

According to court documents, on October 21, 2018 at approximately 9:00 p.m., agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) were patrolling the coastline of St. John near Haulover Bay, USVI when they encountered a Virgin Islands registered vessel with no running lights illuminated.

Upon further inspection, the agents determined that there were five males onboard, including defendants Gomez and Hernandez.The vessel was on course to an area that is not a port of entry authorized by the United StatesDepartment of Homeland Security.

Following his apprehension by federal law enforcement, defendant Gomez was read his Miranda Rights in Spanish language and waived his rights both verbally and in writing. He stated that he had arrived in Tortola, BVI on September 27, 2018. Neither Gomez nor Hernandez were U.S. citizens, but were nationals of Venezuela and Argentina, respectively.

Gomez and Hernandez did not have permission to enter the United Statesand the area where the boat was stopped was not a designated port of entry.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Unit (AMO).

It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

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Dominican Deported Last Year Gets 1.75 Years In Prison For Coming Back This Year

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A Dominican Republic native who was deported from the United States last year for drug trafficking got 1.75 years in prison from a federal judge for trying to sneak into the territory in May.

Victor Gonzalez Rodriquez, 35, of Santo Domingo, was sentenced on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for illegally re-entering the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert said.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Polanco to 21 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment.

According to court documents, on May 9, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted a vessel off of St. John and after a chase discovered Rodriquez along with four other Dominican nationals attempting to enter the United States.

Rodriquez was previously removed from the United States on August 17, 2017, relating to a drug trafficking offense.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Everard Potter.