U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands has a slate of cases her office is handling in district court on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
In a series of news releases, Shappert announced the following incidents and cases.
Former Bank Employee Charged with Fraud, Identity Theft
Natasha Seetaram was arrested on Friday and charged with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and other related charges.
According to the indictment filed in the case, Seetaram formerly worked at the St. Thomas branch of a bank identified by the initials “B.P.” in the charging document. She is accused of using her position at the bank to issue debit cards in the names of bank customers without such customers’ knowledge or consent. Seetaram is charged with using the cards for her own personal benefit, making ATM withdrawals and purchases first in St. Thomas and later in Jacksonville, Florida, when she relocated her residence there.
The case is being investigated by the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan Brooks and Kyle Payne.
Man Charged with Stealing over $300,000 from Father
Lenroy Ravalier Jr. was arrested and charged on Friday with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and other related charges.
According to the indictment in the case, Ravalier forged checks in his father’s name, totaling more than $300,000, in order to obtain those funds for himself. Ravalier then moved much of the money through various bank accounts in order to conceal the unlawful activity.
This case is being investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Brooks.
Colombian Sentenced After 1,355 pounds of Marijuana Found on his Vessel
Cristian Valencia-Mendoza of Colombia, was sentenced on Thursday after being found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to possess and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
According to court filings, the defendant was on board a go-fast style vessel that was intercepted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter while on routine patrol. The cutter first sighted the go-fast vessel on Oct. 18, 2019, approximately 45 nautical miles north of Malpelo Island, Columbia. The vessel did not have any display indicating its nationality.
The Coast Guard boarded the vessel and seized 21 bales of marijuana, which weighed approximately 1,355 pounds, and arrested the two individuals on board. The defendant Valencia-Mendoza later confessed to being hired to assist the boat captain in delivering the drugs. A federal jury returned guilty verdicts on Jan. 22.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert A. Molloy sentenced Valencia-Mendoza to 33 months’ imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release.
The captain of the vessel, Centeno A. Hansel-Andres, of the Dominican Republic, previously pled guilty and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
STT Man Sentenced for Firearm with Obliterated Serial Number
Javier Enrique Lima of St. Thomas was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty to possessing and transporting a firearm with an obliterated serial number and fleeing a designated customs facility without authorization.
According to the documents filed in this case, on Feb. 3, Lima presented himself to the Customs and Border Protection in the Red Hook ferry terminal after returning from Tortola, British Virgin Islands. A CBP Officer working the X-ray machine noticed a firearm in the backpack Lima brought with him and called for another officer. Lima immediately fled the facility on foot, leaving his backpack. The backpack contained a firearm with an obliterated serial number, records show. Law enforcement agents made multiple efforts to locate Lima but were unable to do so. He later turned himself in and pled guilty.
District Court Judge Robert A. Molloy sentenced Lima to 30 months’ imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release on one count and 12 months’ imprisonment followed by one year of supervised release on one count; to be run concurrently.
The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.
Three Passengers Charged with Having Marijuana in Bags
Complaints were filed on Thursday against Kharim Moore, Trevon Richards and Dennis Weekes for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced in a news release.
The three suspects made their initial appearances in federal court on Thursday on St. Thomas.
According to the two affidavits filed in the cases, Moore was stopped at the Cyril E. King Airport after arriving on St. Thomas from Atlanta. Customs and Border Protection officers then searched his carry-on bag and found approximately three kilograms of marijuana.
Richards and Weekes arrived at the Cyril E. King Airport after arriving on St. Thomas from Atlanta on a separate flight. CBP officers searched both their carry-on bags and found marijuana. Richards’ bag contained approximately three kilograms of marijuana. Weekes’ bag contained approximately 1.5 kilograms of marijuana.
These cases are being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Virgin Islands.