A 28-year-old man has been sentenced to serve two years behind bars for his role in a cocaine smuggling operation at Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, according to U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert’s office.
Lamech Matthew was sentenced Thursday and also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay a $3,500 fine and $100 special assessment.
Matthew and co-defendant Alvin Henry, 40, were both charged after a routine inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at Rohlsen Airport on Nov. 2, 2016.
A K-9 officer patrolling the pre-departure area at the airport noticed Henry nervously stand up and lift his bag off the floor when the dog approached, and asked if they could inspect his bags.
Henry consented to the search and officers found 10 duct-taped bricks of cocaine concealed in his luggage.
“Henry was part of a scheme to transport cocaine from St. Croix to Florida, and had met with an airport employee in the bathroom of the departure area, who delivered the cocaine bricks to Henry in the bathroom. Henry was scheduled to board the American Airlines flight to Miami with the cocaine in his carry-on luggage,” according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The total weight of the cocaine in Henry’s bag was more than five kilograms, or 11 pounds.
A grand jury returned an indictment against Henry on Dec. 13, 2018.
The airport employee, Matthew, who was employed by Worldwide Flight Services, was charged with the same crimes and entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors on Jan. 21, 2019, in exchange for testifying against Henry at trial.
“Matthew stated that he had used the same method to transport cocaine on approximately eight other occasions,” according to an affidavit filed by federal investigators.
Henry was found guilty by a jury in March 2019 and appealed his convictions, arguing that prosecutors engaged in several instances of misconduct.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Wilma Lewis later scolded prosecutors for their irregular handling of the case, including an agreement with Matthew that he did not have to testify against anyone else involved in the conspiracy, only Henry, which was not disclosed to the court or defense attorneys.
“These failures by the Government were unacceptable; fell far below the performance standards that the Court expects of counsel; and caused delay and frustration that were decidedly avoidable,” Lewis wrote in a lengthy opinion filed in Dec. 2019.
Despite the irregularities, Lewis upheld Henry’s convictions, and he was sentenced on March 3, 2020, to four years behind bars. Henry filed a request for compassionate release from prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Lewis denied in November.