Roberto Tapia has been placed on administrative leave following his arrest Friday on narcotics conspiracy charges, Government House announced Sunday morning.
Tapia is the director of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Enforcement Division. He was arrested Friday by federal agents who alleged he was carrying seven kilograms of cocaine.
DPNR Commissioner Alicia V. Barnes reported the arrest to Gov. John deJongh Jr. Friday night, according to Sunday morning’s announcement. In light of the arrest, Barnes placed Tapia on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal charges. Tapia will continue to draw his salary while on leave.
In his absence, Barnes will directly oversee and coordinate the activities of the Enforcement Division until an acting director is named, according to Government House. She will operate with assistance and input from the V.I. Police Department.
Barnes reminded the public that all persons are presumed innocent under the U.S. justice system until proven guilty. Pursuant to policy, however, persons charged with criminal offenses are routinely placed on leave.
DeJongh, Police Commissioner designate Rodney F. Querrard Sr. and Barnes pledged the full cooperation of the local government with the territory’s federal law enforcement partners in the ongoing investigation that led to this arrest.
“It is always a sad day when anyone in law enforcement is either suspected of or charged with violating the laws they are sworn to uphold,” said Querrard. “However, it is our duty to see that such allegations are investigated and where proven are prosecuted. I can assure the public that ours is a policy of zero tolerance for any violations of law by those in our law enforcement divisions. Zero tolerance.”
According to the DPNR website, the primary function of the Enforcement Division is to enforce all laws applicable to the protection, preservation and conservation of the natural resources and overall environment of the USVI, including fish and wildlife, antiquities and cultural resources, boating safety and conditions stipulated in permits related to development in the territory.