Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Caribbean News Crime News National News Police News Puerto Rico News U.S. Department of Justice

Puerto Rico Man Gets 5.6 Years For Wide-Ranging Opioid, Heroin, Cocaine Conspiracy

BOSTON — A Puerto Rican man was sentenced today in federal court in Worcester for his role in a wide-ranging fentanyl, heroin, crack and cocaine trafficking conspiracy.

Rafael Hidalgo Rodriguez, 34, of Ponce, Puerto Rico was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman to 68 months in prison and four years of supervised release. On December 2, 2021, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base and 500 grams or more of cocaine.

According to court documents, following a fatal fentanyl overdose in September 2018, law enforcement began an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) led by co-conspirators Pedro Baez and Anthony Baez that distributed cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in the Fitchburg area.

Through a series of court-authorized interceptions of phones used by the DTO and its suppliers, surveillance and controlled purchases, Rodriguez was identified as the source of the DTO’s cocaine and crack cocaine supply chain. Rodriguez, who was based in Puerto Rico, mailed packages containing cocaine to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. During the investigation, a package Rodriguez mailed to Massachusetts was seized which contained two kilograms of cocaine, as well as a package destined for Rodriguez in Puerto Rico that contained $65,000 in cash.

Over the course of the investigation, over 1.8 kilograms of a heroin and fentanyl mixture, over 3.6 kilograms of cocaine and over 50 grams of crack cocaine, as well as a stolen, loaded handgun, drug manufacturing equipment and over $376,000 was seized. Rodriguez distributed between three and a half and five kilograms of cocaine.

Rodriguez was charged along with 17 others in July 2020. Rodriguez is the seventh defendant to be sentenced in the case. Co-defendants Amanda Ford, Branny Taveras and Hector Matos have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. In December 2020, Anthony Baez was sentenced by Judge Hillman to 13 years in prison and five years of supervised release Pedro Baez pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2021 and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2022. The remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Commissioner Carol Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement today. The Fitchburg Police Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Lunenburg Police Department also provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alathea Porter of Rollins’ Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit prosecuted the case.

The operation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Thomas News

2 Women Go On Shopping Spree At Walmart With Stolen Credit Card: VIPD

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Two St. Thomas women were charged after allegedly going on a shopping spree at Walmart using a stolen credit card, authorities said.

Imai Demming, 22, of Michael Kirwan Terrace was arrested at 12:13 p.m., Monday and Mayasia Smith, 23, of Charlotte Amalie was arrested at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and charged with fraudulent use of a credit card and grand larceny, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

Smith was also charged with embezzlement by fiduciaries, according to the VIPD.

2 Women Go On Shopping Spree At Walmart With Stolen Credit Card: VIPD
CHARGED: Imai Demming, 22, of Michael Kirwan Terrace in St. Thomas.

“Demming and Smith allegedly made over $800 worth of unauthorized online credit card purchases from Walmart & Fashion Nova in August 2021,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima.

Bail for Demming and Smith was set at $20,000 each. Unable to post bail, each woman was remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Corrections pending advice-of-rights hearings.

Meanwhile, Virgin Islands Free Press readers on social media tended to take the side of the unnamed victim.

“Just foolishness. Come on ladies, that wasn’t worth it. Record for life,” Monica Ryan said from Atlanta.

“God will see these beautiful ladies through …let us not judge but encourage and uplift them in a positive way… We all have past.” Jenny Chinnery said.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Inspector assisted with the police investigation in this case.

Demming and Smith were each arrested by detectives with the VIPD’s Economic Crime Unit based on a Superior Court warrant.

Embezzlement by fiduciary refers to the fraudulent conversion of another’s property by a person who is in a position of trust, such as an agent or employee.

2 Women Go On Shopping Spree At Walmart With Stolen Credit Card: VIPD
CHARGED: Mayasia Smith, 23, of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.

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

[wpedon id=23995]

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News National News Police News St. Thomas News Territorial Affairs U.S. Department of Justice

South Carolina Man Faces 5 Years In Prison For Mailing Guns To Box In St. Thomas

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — His chance to have his case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court denied, a South Carolina man faces five years in prison after admitting in federal court that he mailed guns to himself in St. Thomas.

Steven Baxter, 36, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller to mailing firearms to the Virgin Islands, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court records, on or around March 30, 2017, Baxter resided in Orangeburg, S.C., and used the United States Postal Service (USPS) to mail two packages containing firearms to St. Thomas.

A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) canine discovered the first firearm during routine inspection of incoming mail to St. Thomas. Two days later, a United States Postal Inspection officer discovered the second firearm while sorting mail inside the post office.

In 2018, Baxter filed a motion to suppress the firearms. He argued that CBP and the USPS needed to secure a warrant prior to searching his incoming mail.

Then District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez agreed with Baxter and suppressed the firearms.

In his ruling, Gomez found that the government could not search first class mail coming into the Virgin Islands from the mainland United States without first obtaining a warrant.

The government appealed Gomez’s decision and, on February 21, 2020, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Gomez when it concluded there was no search warrant requirement for incoming mail.

As a result of that ruling, Baxter sought a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. On January 25, 2021, the Supreme Court denied Baxter’s request for certiorari.

In law, certiorari is a court process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court or government agency. Certiorari comes from the name of an English prerogative writ, issued by a superior court to direct that the record of the lower court be sent to the superior court for review.

As a result of his guilty plea, Baxter faces a maximum sentence of 60 months in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

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

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Business News Crime News Police News St. John News Tourism News

Dominicana Madam Made Sex Workers Pay $150 ‘Exit Fee’ To Buy Groceries Away From Embers Guest House

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Federal authorities painted a horrifying picture of a long-running human trafficking ring on St. Thomas, after a raid of a Contant brothel discovered seven undocumented immigrants who said they had been forced into sex work and thought they would be killed if they reported how they were abused.

The leader of the operation was identified as Ramona Rivera Luna, a native of the Dominican Republic, who has been charged in a federal criminal complaint with alien harboring and importation of aliens for immoral purposes, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.

According to court documents filed in the case, Rivera Luna, a legal U.S. resident, was arrested on Friday. Earlier that day, federal agents executed a search warrant at The Embers Guest House, which Rivera Luna has owned and operated for at least 15 years.

Dominicana Madam Made Sex Workers Pay 0 'Exit Fee' To Buy Groceries Away From Embers Guest House

Federal agents discovered seven female aliens from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela whom Rivera Luna is alleged to have smuggled into St. Thomas by others, after having lured the women to work for her with the false offer of legitimate bartending and server jobs.

Once the women arrived in St. Thomas, they were forced to engage in commercial sex acts, with the proceeds used to pay off their respective smuggling debts, which ranged from $8,000 to $15,000 and to pay Rivera Luna $200 a week for rent.

The women had to obtain permission and pay to leave the premises for any reason, including merely running errands such as to the grocery store, paying a $150 exit fee.

Court documents allege that Rivera Luna maintained her control over the women with threats of possible violence and near constant surveillance —the premises were equipped with video cameras, all of which were connected to a DVR found in Rivera Luna’s bedroom.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Edwards.

A complaint is merely a charging document, and it is not in and of itself evidence of guilt, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the USAO said.

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Thomas News U.S. Department of Justice

USAO: Shawn Tyson’s Illegal Gun Pipeline Between Atlanta And St. Thomas Ends With Court Conviction

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A St. Thomas man was convicted in federal court on Thursday for his role in trying to run a pipeline of guns with obliterated serial numbers between Atlanta and the USVI, authorities said.

Shawn Bernard Tyson was found guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition and of mailing firearms after a two-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in St. Thomas, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

After jury selection earlier in the week, Natasha France, Tyson’s sister, who was charged with Tyson, pleaded guilty to two counts of willfully transferring weapons out of state to another unlicensed person, three counts of unlawfully mailing firearms, and three counts of delivering firearms to a common carrier without written notice.

According to trial testimony, on November 10, 2018, Natasha France, was captured on a United States Postal Service (USPS) surveillance video, walking into an Atlanta, Georgia post office and mailing six parcels to her brother Shawn Tyson at the St. Thomas Jet Center.

Five of the parcels were subsequently intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, when the packages arrived in St. Thomas. Inside of the parcels, CBP officers found gun parts sufficient to assemble eight ATI Omni Maxx pistols, along with three additional lower receivers and other gun components.

In total, nine of the eleven gun lower receivers were ATI Omni Maxx Hybrids, which constitute firearms under federal law. The serial numbers on all eleven of the lower receivers were obliterated, in violation of federal law.

After confiscating the gun parcels mailed by defendant France from Atlanta on November 10, 2018, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) discovered four additional parcels en route from Atlanta to defendant Tyson at the St. Thomas Jet Center.

Those parcels were also intercepted by law enforcement. Two of the four parcels were mailed on November 13, 2018, and were addressed from Natasha France to Shawn Tyson, while the other two were addressed from Shawn Tyson to Shawn Tyson.

The two parcels mailed on November 13, 2018 contained parts sufficient to assemble two Mini Draco, 7.62 pistols, while the two parcels mailed on November 14, 2018, contained the parts sufficient to assemble three ATI Omni Maxx hybrids, as well as two additional ATI lower receivers.

The serial numbers on all seven of the lower receivers contained in the four parcels were obliterated, in violation of federal law.

Evidence at trial proved that Tyson paid for the parcels mailed to/from himself on November 14, 2018. Evidence presented at trial established that between November 2, 2018 and November 9, 2018, defendant France and two associates collectively purchased nine ATI Omni Max Hybrid pistols from various gun stores in the greater Atlanta area.

On November 11, 2018, France purchased two additional Mini Draco pistols—the same make, model, and quantity of firearms that she mailed to Tyson on November 13, 2018.

On that same date, France, Tyson, and two associates were captured on surveillance video staging their arrival times at Elite Pawn in Conyers, Georgia, where the two associates purchased a total of five ATI Omni Maxx Hybrids.

The trial evidence also established that on December 13, 2018, while executing a search warrant, agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered .223 caliber, 9 mm caliber, and .40 caliber ammunition from defendant Tyson’s locked bedroom in St. Thomas.

France’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 16, 2020; Tyson’s is scheduled for April 23, 2018.

France faces a five-year maximum term of imprisonment on each of the counts of unlawfully transferring firearms and failing to provide written notice to a common carrier, and a maximum term of two years’ imprisonment on each of the counts of unlawfully mailing firearms.

Tyson faces a ten-year maximum term of imprisonment on the felon in possession of ammunition charge and a two-year maximum on the unlawful mailing charge.

France and Tyson are each facing federal firearms charges in Atlanta, along with others.

This case was investigated by CBP, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), USPIS, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meredith Edwards and George Andrew LaTaif-Massucco.

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/gunrunners-convicted-in-virgin-islands-purchased-weapons-from-conyers-gun/article_b84202b4-28cb-11ea-a5d9-fba8d199fe06.html

https://www.courtlistener.com/pdf/2011/08/03/United_States_v._Shawn_Tyson.pdf

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Thomas News U.S. Department of Justice

Dominican Republic Man Admits To Sending Nine Pounds of Cocaine Through U.S. Mail

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A man from the Dominican Republic admitted in federal court today that he mailed about nine pounds of cocaine through the U.S. Postal Service.

Domingo Diaz Diaz, 40, of Santo Domingo, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Diaz was remanded pending a sentencing hearing set for June 13, according to Shappert.

According to court records, in February of 2016, Diaz mailed two packages through the Ottley Post Office in Sugar Estate that contained about four kilograms (8.81 pounds) of cocaine, a controlled substance.

Court records indicate that Diaz’ latent prints were subsequently recovered from inside the package.

Diaz faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years. He also faces a fine of up to $5 million and four years of supervised release after prison.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

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

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Croix News St. Thomas News U.S. Department of Justice

St. Croix Postal Worker Stephen Bernier Gets Three Years In Prison For Mailing 308 Pounds of Marijuana

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A former St. Croix postal worker was given three years in prison by a federal judge on St. Thomas today for mailing at least 308 pounds of marijuana.

Stephen Bernier, 53, of St. Croix, was sentenced for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Bernier to 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay a $100 special assessment and perform 300 hours of community service, according to Shappert.

On November 3, 2017, Bernier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

According to documents filed in court, between January 10, 2016 and March 8, 2017, Bernier and other co-conspirators possessed and distributed approximately 140 kilograms of marijuana through the United States
Postal Service.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations.

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

https://vifreepress.com/2017/11/st-thomas-postal-workers-plead-guilty-bringing-308-pounds-marijuana-u-s-mail/

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Thomas News U.S. Department of Justice

Dominican National Arrested By Feds For Trying To Introduce Nearly Nine Pounds of Cocaine Into Territory

Dominican National Arrested By Feds For Trying To Introduce Nearly Nine Pounds of Cocaine Into Territory

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A native of the Dominican Republic was arrested on Monday on charges related to trying to smuggle nearly nine pounds of cocaine into the territory.

Braulio Martinez, 33, of Santo Domingo, was arrested on an indictment charging him with three counts of distribution of a controlled substance, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Martinez made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller and was detained pending further proceedings, Shappert said.

According to the indictment, on or about July 25, December 13, and December 16, 2017, Martinez distributed more than 500 grams of cocaine.

The indictment further alleges that Martinez distributed about four kilograms of cocaine from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland.

If convicted of distribution of a controlled substance, Martinez faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.00.

Nine kilograms is the equivalent of about 8.81 pounds.

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.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

Categories
At VIFreep Breaking News Crime News Police News St. Thomas News U.S. Department of Justice

Dominican and Haitian Face Five Years In Prison For Picking Up 2.2 Pounds of Cocaine At Post Office

Dominican and Haitian Face Five Years In Prison For Picking Up 2.2 Pounds of Cocaine At Post Office

[ad name=”HTML-68″]

[wpedon id=”23995″ align=”left”]

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A native of the Dominican Republic and a native of Haiti were arrested on Monday on charges that they tried to smuggle 2.2 pounds of cocaine into the territory.

Tommy Ramirez, 29, of Santo Domingo and Ramon Clavel, 55, of Port-au-Prince, were detained on a criminal complaint charging them with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Ramirez and Clavel made their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller and were detained pending further proceedings.

According to the complaint, on Monday, Ramirez and Clavel presented themselves at the post office to claim a package that contained one kilogram of cocaine, a controlled substance.

If convicted of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, Ramirez and Clavel face a minimum sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000.00.

Shappert said that a complaint 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.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.