Five people were arraigned last week in District Court on St. Thomas on a 20-count indictment in relation to an alleged drug trafficking conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced in a news release issued Tuesday.
According to Shappert, Ivan James, Kai James, Joh Williams, Malachi Benjamin and Tillisa Caesar appeared Feb. 12 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller. The five faced charges on a superseding indictment charging drug conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and possession of firearms.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Miller remanded Ivan James, Williams and Benjamin pending their detention hearings on Feb. 20. Caesar was previously detained on separate drug trafficking conspiracy charges and Kai James was placed on home confinement, according to the news release.
According to court records, Ivan James and Kai James were alleged leaders of a large-scale drug trafficking organization that operated on St. Croix. Federal law enforcement first discovered the organization’s existence during a 2013 investigation, which revealed that Ivan James was smuggling narcotics into the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix with the aid of a now deceased corrections officer. According to reports Williams, who was incarcerated at Golden Grove, distributed the narcotics on behalf of Ivan James.
Investigators said Ivan James directed his associates in July 2015 to rob a rival drug dealer of several kilograms of cocaine at gunpoint. The investigation continued with the execution of a search warrant at the James family compound at 239 Estates LaGrange on St. Croix, where federal agents recovered more than 1,000 marijuana plants and one-half kilograms of cocaine.
During the search, federal agents also recovered four pistols and one AR-15 rifle together with a large cache of ammunition, the records show. The investigation culminated with the seizure of an additional four pistols, one AK-47 rifle and approximately 24 kilograms of marijuana that were concealed and shipped in a commercial freezer from Miami to St. Croix via Paradise Freight Shipping on Feb. 28, 2019.
The superseding indictment charges all defendants with drug conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute narcotics. In addition, Ivan James, Kai James and Benjamin are charged with possession of firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking conspiracy. Benjamin is also charged in a separate indictment with possession with intent to distribute cocaine after a vehicle for which he was a passenger was stopped and searched by Virgin Islands police officers on St. Croix. Benjamin allegedly fled the scene after officers asked him about his involvement in the 2019 double homicides at the Cockpit Coliseum on St. Croix.
This case is being investigated by the Homeland Security Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Delia Smith.