ST. THOMAS — Federal agents intercepted a vessel carrying 433 pounds of cocaine off St. Thomas on Wednesday night, and charged the five men aboard with drug smuggling, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Jorge Romero-Amaro, Giovanni Graciani, Hector Rivera, Ruben Reyes, and Pedro Sayan were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday when U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations intercepted a vessel being tracked on radar that was traveling from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, according to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the FBI. As CBP marine units were following the vessel and trying to force it to stop, agents “saw individuals onboard the target vessel throwing black objects overboard into the ocean,” according to the affidavit.
The agents dropped markers where the objects were discarded and continued to pursue the fleeing vessel until it “finally stopped.”
U.S. Coast Guard personnel who responded to the scene retrieved the discarded objects, and found seven duffle bags floating in the ocean, according to the affidavit. Inside the bags, agents said they found 187 cellophane wrapped brick-shaped packages of cocaine weighing approximately 433 pounds.
Agents read the five men their rights, and Reyes waived his right to remain silent and said he travelled illegally from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to St. Thomas by boat, according to the affidavit. “Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, further stated that he was trying to get to Puerto Rico, and that he paid $500 to a boat captain in Tortola to transport him to St. John.”
Reyes told agents that he didn’t know the duffle bags were aboard when he boarded the vessel bound for Puerto Rico, and he was supposed to pay the captain $1,000 on his arrival,” according to the affidavit.
All five men made their initial appearance Friday before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller, who scheduled their preliminary examinations and detention hearings for Nov. 25.