80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


April 17, 2002 – Drug agents and police surrounded the Estate Profit community around 6 a.m. Wednesday armed with federal and territorial warrants and proceeded to arrest eight individuals on U.S. charges and 13, including an elementary school teacher, on V.I. charges, authorities said at a late-morning press conference.
(Later in the day, conflicting figures on the number of warrants and arrests were circulating. However, on Thursday morning, a knowledgeable source in the U.S. Attorney's office said a total of 34 warrants were issued — 20 of them in District Court based on federal grand jury indictments that had been sealed after being handed up, and 14 of them in Territorial Court.)
David Atkinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands, said at the press conference in the Almeric L. Christian Federal Building that the charges and arrests were the result of an investigation that had been ongoing for seven years. "We pieced together historical information back to 1994," he said.
According to officials, about a hundred officers from the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agency in Puerto Rico and from the V.I. Police Department took part in the operation. They blocked five access roads, allowing residents to leave only after searching them and/or questioning them as to the whereabouts of those being sought, the officials said, and raided Colon's Bar and adjacent properties where, according to authorities, an open-air market traded in heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine.
A total of 13 persons were arrested on federal indictments and six others were being sought, Atkinson said, while eight were arrested on territorial charges and five others were still at large. (Later, Atkinson said seven under indictment were being sought; there was no clarification of the total of 13 he gave for the local warrants versus the 14 cited Thursday morning by the U.S. Attorney's Office source.)
V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron said at the press conference that no violence or injury to defendants or agents took place and that the defendants would appear in District Court Wednesday afternoon and in Territorial Court on Thursday morning for advice of rights.
Among those arrested, authorities said, was Jeanne Hughes, a teacher at Eulalie Rivera Elementary School. She was arrested on territorial charges of possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and/or a fine of $5,000.
Atkinson identified those facing federal charges as Jose Acosta, Juan Bermudez, Tamisha Medina Colon, Juan Crespo, Joseon Maisonet, Juan Maisonet, Norma Medina, Sandra Medina, Jose Luis Mercado, Samuel Mercado, Edwin Ramirez, Jose Rodriguez and Antonio Torres.
He said agents were "attempting to locate" six others wanted on federal charges: Jarmaine Ayala, Ricardo Ayala, Daniel Cepeda, Cristobel Gomez, Ramon Mateo and Leonardo Rodriguez.
Stridiron identified those arrested on territorial charges as Carlos Cruz, Hughes, Ion "Tito" Jarvis, Miguel Lopez (a.k.a. Carlos Torres), Moises Melendez, Yolanda Melendez, Kennette "Dolo" McIntosh and Alfred Wilson.
He said Ronald Mason, Richard Motta, Fernando "Nando" Velasquez, Jerome Seeley and an individual identified as "Daisy" were still being sought on territorial charges.
Atkinson said at the press conference that the partnership between federal and territorial law-enforcement bodies was "good news for Profit and Clifton Hill."
Stridiron said, "The people of the Virgin Islands should be pleased with this operation. We will prosecute those who chose to spoil our community and affect our children."
A DEA helicopter was involved in the operation, which "ran smooth," the pilot, Special Agent Marcelo Mendez, said. He said his crew spotted about a hundred marijuana plants while flying over the area. "This is a small island; anything can be seen by air," he said.
One resident passing by a checkpoint on the way to work said later that the operation looked like a scene from a television show or movie, with numerous white sport utility vehicles, and local officers dressed in black and others wearing Drug Enforcement Agency jackets canvassing the area.
Stridiron said at the press conference that when authorities moved in to make the arrests, "As we walked up, parents were calling out if their children were being sought." He said some residents helped officers locate defendants.
One 42-year resident of Estate Profit said following the raids that he is concerned about the image being portrayed of the predominantly Hispanic community and he wishes police would move in often. "Sometimes we feel it makes our neighborhood look bad," Leon Cruz said, but "the neighbors feel good" about Wednesday's action.
Cruz has been a Little League coach and mentor since 1970. Pointing to the community ballpark, he said, "I have a lot of children in this area. I've got to look out for them."
A Grove Place resident said she came upon police cars circling the Eulalie Rivera school grounds about 7:45 a.m. as she walked her children, ages 7 and 5, to school. "I am really, really shocked and disappointed," Sylvanie Isidore said upon learning of the teacher's arrest.
"This is what we are coming to in St. Croix," Isidore added, noting that teachers "are the ones who are teaching the kids to 'say no.'" The school hosts the anti-drug Weed and Seed program for young people that is funded by the U.S. Justice Department.
No information was immediately available on the market value of the drugs seized in the morning raids. In response to a question about evidence, Stridiron said about a hundred items, mostly crack cocaine, were seized. He said the evidence was not available for the news media to view but might be exhibited when the cases go to trial.
Atkinson asked residents to call the U.S. Justice Department hotline at 713-1497 with information about questionable activity going on in their communities. He also called on the warrant subjects still at large to turn themselves in to police or in District Court.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian said at the press conference, "It has long been rumored that violent crime is on the rise." He said the anti-drug initiative will continue throughout the territory.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.