With jury selection set to begin for a federal trial on Monday, the pilot of a speedboat intercepted by police pleaded guilty to drug trafficking. The change of plea hearing took place in U.S. District Court on St. Thomas before United States Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller.
Sentencing for defendant Pedro Ramos-Ramierez is expected to take place before Chief District Judge Robert Molloy, who will schedule a sentencing date.
Miller spent part of Monday choosing a panel to hear arguments in a trial held for two others arrested along with Ramierez on Dec. 29, 2021. Opening arguments and witness testimony were expected to start late in the day and continue through Tuesday.
Court documents say the three were apprehended by the crew of a Customs and Border Patrol Air and Marine Operations boat in the waters near the North Side of St. Thomas.
Ramierez was identified as the operator of the go-fast boat. Authorities said the two others aboard at the time — Johny Rodriguez and Gerald Albert Cruz — were spotted by law enforcement in the midst of a high-speed chase.
“Defendant was operating the vessel (as) CBP_AMO witnessed the two other occupants throwing bales from the vessel into the oceans …,” said DEA Special Agent Kemar Wilson.
The bags were recovered and parcels contained within were sent to the DEA Lab in Miami. The contents tested positive for cocaine, court documents said.
On Monday, Ramierez pleaded guilty to a single count of being onboard a covered vessel with 75 kilograms of a controlled substance on board. Miller accepted the plea and explained the possible penalties facing the defendant.
Violations of the United States Code, Title 46, Section 705036 call for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, and a maximum fine of $10,000.