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‘Cocaine Cops’ Who Had 725 Pounds Of Blow On Private Jet To Plead Guilty

MIAMI — Two Virgin Islands police officers charged with smuggling a planeload of cocaine to Miami have filed notices that they intend to plead guilty, rather than take their cases to trial, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida.

Officers Shakim Mike, 29, and Teshawn Adams, 26, have been jailed at the Federal Detention Center in Miami since their arrests in January, and are charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and conspiracy.

Each man has indicated that they are ready to enter plea agreements with prosecutors.

On Thursday, Assistant Federal Public Defender Lauren Field Krasnoff filed a notice of intent to plead guilty on behalf of Mike, who “respectfully requests that the Court set a change of plea hearing at the Court’s convenience.”

Defense attorney Oscar Arroyave filed a similar notice on behalf of Adams on Friday.

A judge had previously set a deadline, which passed Monday, for defendants to plead guilty to qualify for acceptance of responsibility, which could result in a more lenient prison term under statutory sentencing guidelines.

Adams’ twin brother, Tevon Adams, has also been charged in the case. His defense attorney Edward O’Donnell IV filed a motion Monday asking the court to extend the deadline to qualify for acceptance of responsibility for another week to May 24.

Plea agreements, which would include prosecutors’ recommended prison sentence, have not yet been filed publicly.

Virgin Islands Internal Revenue Bureau tax return controller Roystin David and a fifth Virgin Islander, Maleek Leonard, 27, are also facing charges.

In addition to being police officers, Mike and Adams are also members of the Virgin Islands National Guard, and several of the co-defendants in the smuggling case told investigators they met while serving together, according to court records.

The men were charged after a charter plane from St. Thomas landed at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Opa-Locka, Fla., on January 12. While performing baggage inspection, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers discovered 294 plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine inside several duffel bags and suitcases, according to the affidavit. The bricks weighed just under 725 pounds with an estimated value of more than $5 million.

The only passengers on the private aircraft were David, Leonard, Mike and Teshawn Adams, who all live on St. Thomas. Mike fled the airport on foot and contacted Tevon Adams, who was already in Florida and took him to a hotel in Miami, according to the affidavit filed by investigators.

A sixth man, Anthon Berkeley, was charged after he admitted to driving from Orlando to Miami to pick up a kilo of the cocaine, and expected to be paid $18,000 to deliver it to the ultimate buyer.

Berkeley also entered a notice of his intent to plead guilty Monday, meaning that half of the co-defendants have said they are willing to plead guilty rather than take their cases to trial. A judge has not yet ruled on the motions.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan wrote in a detention order for Mike and David in January that the men face substantial prison sentences and “will likely lose their sources of income as a result of being charged with the instant offense.”

The defendants “were involved in months’ long planning and were entrusted with a considerable amount of cocaine which leads the court to believe that this was not a one time venture,” O’Sullivan wrote.

By SUZANNE CARLSON/The Virgin Islands Daily News

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DINO PRINT! Potholes At Department of Finance St. Croix Large Enough To Swallow A Car Whole!

CHRISTIANSTED — The failure of the Bryan-Roach Administration to properly maintain St. Croix’s roads and public spaces has reached pandemic levels — citizens complained on social media this weekend.

As these pictures of the Virgin Islands Department of Finance—Bureau of Internal Revenue property in Estate Diamond-Ruby—adjacent to the Sunny Isle Shopping Center show.

The potholes in this government parking lot—and roads across the Big Island—are big enough to repossess your car whole—to pay off former Governor Kenneth E. Mapp’s outstanding tax obligation.

Governor Albert Bryan, Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach, BIR Director Joel Lee—you have to come better than this—for the good of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands—and for the health and safety of the motoring public.

People had scant praise for the poor civic planning of the Bryan-Roach Administration on social media this weekend.

DINO PRINT! Potholes At Department of Finance St. Croix Large Enough To Swallow A Car Whole!

“I thought Villa La Reine’s parking lot was the worst; well, I didn’t know how bad it can get until I arrived at that parking lot!” Sonja DeLilah Ali said on Facebook.

“And unfortunately that’s just one example of one of the mini roads here,” Nanette S. Sarcinella said. “One of the roads downtown Christiansted has a water leak still. That I’ve noticed for a week now where it’s coming out.”

“Wowwwww. They full of sh_t! Up to now they can’t fix roads,” Yajaira Bonano said. “SMH sad.”

“LOL. Driving through there I thought I was in a dingy,” Sully Rodriguez said. Thank God my Jeep high.”

“Wait this Finance parking lot and road,” Beatrice Benjamin-Gumbs said. “These potholes looks like a giant paw print like a dinosaur walk in there last night.”

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BIR Divvies Up Income Tax Refunds In Dribs And Drabs Just In Time For Christmas

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Governor Albert Bryan announced that a second round of income tax refunds was disbursed this month, for a total of more than $15 million in December. 

On Monday, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) sent out 3,550 refund checks totaling $10,210,766. Last week, the BIR sent out 1,100 refund checks totaling $5 million. 

The checks disbursed this month also include refunds from Tax Year 2018, according to BIR Director Joel Lee. 

To date, the Virgin Islands government has issued 37,700 checks totaling $112.8 million. For Fiscal Year 2020, the Administration issued 24,700 checks totaling $68 million. 

“A core foundation of the Bryan/Roach Administration is stabilizing the government and restoring the people’s trust in the government. The income tax refunds we have sent out is one way our Administration is living up to that promise,” Bryan said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a staggering effect on the territory’s economy and the government’s revenue, it also is important that the government fulfill its obligation to the people. We will continue to do so by bringing the backlog of tax refunds, which have languished for years, back to being current and further stabilize the government of the Virgin Islands.” 

Taxpayers who believe they are owed an income tax refund from 2017 or earlier years should contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue in their District to rectify any tax issues that exist or resolve any issues with their account. 

BIR offices at Sunny Isle on St. Croix and in Red Hook on St. Thomas are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call 340-773-1040 on St. Croix or 340-715-1040 in the St. Thomas-St. John District. 

The government “continues to be committed to transparency, stabilizing the economy, restoring trust in government and ensuring the disaster recovery is completed as quickly as possible.”

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Virgin Islands Government Stands To Gain $40 Million Per Year After Favorable Excise Tax Court Ruling

CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan today praised the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy to lift the injunction that prohibited the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) from collecting excise taxes in the Territory. 

In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Molloy said the GVI can resume collecting excise taxes beginning January 1, 2021, after the Bureau of Internal Revenue was able to show that it had adopted an electronic system that assigns excise tax equitably to importers as well as local manufacturers. 

“This is certainly welcome news at a time when revenue for the GVI is in a precarious place because of the economic crash brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bryan said. “Because the Bryan/Roach Financial Team successfully balanced the Fiscal Year 2021 budget with the expectation of not having excise tax revenue, this decision provides some leeway to use the additional revenue from excise taxes for critical government projects that are key to stabilizing the economy and the Government of the Virgin Islands. 

BIR Director Joel Lee estimates that excise taxes account for about $40 million in annual revenue for the GVI. Through November 2020, GVI excise tax revenues totaling more than $84 million had been lost because of U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez’s 2018 decision to halt the collection of excise taxes. 

Excise tax collection from importers and local manufacturers will resume on January 1, Director Lee said.  

Judge Molloy’s ruling Wednesday brings the case closer to a final resolution, and he has scheduled a follow-up hearing for February 3 to assess the resumption of excise tax collections, according to Attorney General Denise George. 

“I want to thank OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal, BIR Director Joel Lee, Attorney General Denise George, the Office of Legal Counsel and their staffs for their persistence in resolving this vital and much-needed source of revenue for the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Governor Bryan said. 

The collection of excise tax in the USVI was stopped in 2018, when the District Court enjoined the collection of excise taxes in Reefco’s suit filed against the GVI. In its lawsuit, Reefco claimed that it was owed a refund from the government for its excise taxes because the BIR had been taxing importers of manufactured goods but had not been taxing local manufacturers, thereby violating the Commerce Clause. 

In October, a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel remanded the case to the District Court to determine whether the GVI may have taken adequate steps to resume collecting excise taxes and directed the lower court to hold further proceedings to determine whether the injunction could be lifted, resulting in Judge Molloy’s ruling on Wednesday.  

“This is quite a victory for the territory. It was a long and challenging legal battle from the District Court to the Third Circuit and back,” said Attorney General George. “I must commend the outstanding work of our legal team working in conjunction with Director Lee and his team at the Bureau of Internal Revenue who built the process necessary to start collections again.” 

The governor said that “the Bryan-Roach Administration continues to be committed to transparency, stabilizing the economy, restoring trust in government and ensuring the disaster recovery is completed as quickly as possible. “