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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


March 11, 2002 – Two men from the Dominican Republic were sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday after pleading guilty to trying to smuggle more than 400 pounds of cocaine from St. Thomas.
Juan Mota, 37, and Jesus Maria Espirito Santo, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. District Court Judge Thomas Moore accepted a plea agreement providing for each man to receive the mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on the charge. If they had gone to trial and been convicted of the crime, they would have faced a maximum penalty of life in prison, Moore said in court Monday.
"From what I know about this case, this is an appropriate agreement," Moore said, adding that both men face deportation to the Dominican Republic after they get out of prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins said he had evidence that on Nov. 8, 2000, U.S. Customs agents received a tip that Mota and Espirito Santo were planning a smuggling trip using a boat in the St. Thomas harbor. Later that day, he said, the two men took the fishing boat and went to Xanadu Beach west of Cyril E. King Airport. Shortly after the two men left there, Customs agents in a boat gave chase to their vessel and observed Mota and Espirito Santo throwing bales of cocaine into the water, he said.
The men were stopped and arrested at sea south of St. Thomas, Jenkins said, and the Customs agents recovered about 191 kilograms, or about 420 pounds, of cocaine from the water.
Prosecutors could recommend a lighter sentence for both men if they cooperate on further investigations, something that is a normal part of plea agreements in cases involving large quantities of cocaine, Mota's attorney, Michael Joseph, said.
At the time of his arrest, Espirito Santo gave his name to investigators as David Hernandez Rivera. On Monday, his attorney, Stephen Brusch, said that his client had given the false name because was living in the United States illegally.
Jenkins did not indicate where the men might have been planning to take the cocaine. Both were living in Puerto Rico at the time.

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