In the wake of Friday’s arrest of the director of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Enforcement Division on narcotics conspiracy charges, two more people were arrested on similar charges.
According to the District Court clerk’s office, Steven Torres and Eddie Lopez-Lopez were advised of their rights early Monday on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.
Court documents indicate that District Court Judge Curtis Gomez had accepted the prosecution’s recommendation to remand the two prior to their detention hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Enforcement director Roberto Tapia was arrested Friday.
Speaking at Monday’s press conference, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe congratulated local and federal law enforcement partners that he said were critical to the investigation, including agents and officers from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Bureau, Internal Revenue Service, V.I. Police Department, U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Homeland Security.
Sharpe said the bust demonstrated two things: that his office, along with federal and local law enforcement colleagues, was committed to reducing crime and public corruption in the community; and that the "rule of law" would be "vigorously enforced," regardless of an individual’s position or title.
Llittle more was revealed Monday, as Sharpe said he could not provide any information that could prejudice the public or a jury, or violate Tapia’s right to a fair trial.
Sharpe said Tapia was arrested by federal agents on Friday while aboard a DPNR boat. When the arrest was made, Tapia was dressed in full uniform and in possession of seven kilograms of cocaine.
Sharpe said Tapia was also armed at the time of his arrest and has been charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. Sharpe could not say Monday if any additional weapons charges will be forthcoming.
"I can’t comment on the investigation or the evidence involved in this matter," Sharpe said, adding later that it is important that law enforcement "recognize, appreciate and respect the rights of the accused."
According to Government House spokesman Jean Greaux, Tapia has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Greaux also said that DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes directed Tapia to surrender all government-owned equipment, including his credentials, revolver, keys, badges, computers and uniforms.
Along with the media, a few members of the public also came to Monday’s press conference to find out who might be taking Tapia’s place. A release issued by the government Sunday night said that DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes would oversee and coordinate the division’s activities until an acting director is named.
Resident Stan Louden said after the press conference that the local marine community has been following developments since the announcement of Tapia’s arrest broke. Many in the marine community felt that Tapia was "quite harsh" on the job, he said, and they urged DPNR to choose a more "qualified" person for the position.