A Puerto Rican man was arrested Thursday evening after federal agents found him on a boat off St. Thomas with more than $100,000 cash in a cooler, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Blas Sebastian Panzardi Davila is charged with concealing and conspiracy to conceal currency in excess of $100,000 on board a vessel outfitted for smuggling. He made his initial appearance Friday before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller, who ordered him released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, meaning he was not required to post cash but is liable for the full $10,000 if he fails to appear in court.
If convicted, Panzardi is facing a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert.
He was arrested Thursday night after U.S. Customs and Border Protection marine agents on patrol between St. Thomas and Culebra spotted a boat traveling without navigation lights, according to the probable cause affidavit filed by a special agent for Homeland Security Investigations.
Federal agents routinely patrol the area for signs of human trafficking, as well as drug and bulk cash smuggling. Agents stopped the vessel and Panzardi consented to a search, during which agents found more than $100,000 cash in vacuum sealed plastic bags inside a white cooler, according to the affidavit.
“During the encounter, Panzardi stated he had no knowledge of the contents of the white cooler,” and told agents in an interview that he had traveled from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas “to start a new life.”
Despite claiming no knowledge of the contents of the cooler, Panzardi also “claimed the currency was his and he earned it working as a snorkeling guide in Puerto Rico.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard Potter.