Eleven people pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court on St. Thomas to charges of drug trafficking and money laundering in a case that involved airline employees taking advantage of their airport security clearances at the Cyril E. King Airport, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe.
District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez accepted guilty pleas Thursday on the following charges:
Dellana Magner, 23, and Kinia Blyden, 23, both from St. Thomas, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Rasheem Morton, 36, Monique David, 40, and Te’Nae George, 23, all from St. Thomas, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.
On Monday, Nilda Morton, 32, of St. Thomas; Vanier Murraine, 34, a native of St. Thomas and resident of Detroit; Christopher Butler, 30, and Drue Williams III, 35, of Twinsburgh, Ohio; and Taheeda George, 37, and Roniqua Hart, 24, of St. Thomas, pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.
All defendants were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending sentencing, which has been set for June 1.
According to the plea agreements filed with the court, from October 2015 through July 2016, Nilda Morton was the leader of the drug trafficking organization, supplying cocaine to Vanier Murraine utilizing Delta Airlines employees Taheeda George and Roniqua Hart. The Delta employees then used their security clearances at the Cyril E. King Airport to smuggle cocaine to Dellana Magner, Kanya Tirado, Kinia Blyden and Jerrisha Rawlins after they had completed their pre-boarding security clearances, but before they boarded their commercial flights to the U.S. mainland.
On three occasions in June and July 2016, airport security surveillance footage captured the defendants in the public restroom removing vacuum-sealed packages of cocaine from their bodies and placing them in the couriers’ carryon bags before they boarded their flights, Sharpe said.
After the cocaine was sold stateside, Nilda Morton arranged for her brother, Rasheem Morton, Dellana Magner, Te’Nae George, Kinia Blyden, Jerrisha Rawlins, Roniqua Hart and Monique David to transport the cash proceeds back to St. Thomas, where she took possession of the money.
The investigation culminated on July 1 with the arrest of Magner after she smuggled three kilograms of cocaine onboard an American Airlines flight destined for Miami.
This case is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI in Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Thomas. prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith.