Roberto Tapia, chief enforcement officer for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, was arrested Friday evening by federal agents and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
The arrest was announced by the office of U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe and DEA Resident Agent in Charge Eric Barnard.
According to the federal officials, Tapia was carrying seven kilograms of cocaine when he was arrested on St. Thomas.
Tapia, a former member of the disbanded St. Thomas V.I. Police Deparment’s Blue Lightening boat unit, was one of three arrested as the result of the multi-agency investigation, Barnard said. The agent could not give the names of the other two arrested men, but said they were apprehended at a separate location.
Tapia made his initial appearance in District Court Saturday before Chief Judge Curtis V. Gomez, and was ordered held without bail pending a detention hearing Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint filed in District Court, federal agents observed Tapia on Friday using a DPNR boat in furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy. At the time of the arrest, Tapia was armed, wearing clothing bearing official DPNR insignia, and in possession of a bag containing approximately seven kilograms of cocaine.
If convicted, Tapia faces a statutory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly B. Lake and Kim R. Lindquist. The statement released late Saturday by the U.S. Attorney’s office reminded the public that a criminal complaint is a charging document and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Barnard said the investigation was initiated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Other agencies involved included the FBI, Homeland Security Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Marshal’s Service, the IRS Criminal Investigation Service, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard the the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The agent said he could not discuss any details of the case because the investigation is ongoing.
U.S. Attorney Sharpe also announced that a press conference will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the Ron deLugo Federal Building on St. Thomas.
• This updates an earlier version of the story, providing additional details of the charges and of Tapia’s court appearance.
Editor’s Note: The Source reported originally that Roberto Tapia was a member of the disbanned V.I. Narcotics Strike Force. He was actually a member of Blue Lightening — a marine unit under the V.I. Police Department.