A 28-year-old Puerto Rican man has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for bulk cash smuggling, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert.

Arioc Diaz Melendez was sentenced Monday for concealing $287,660 in U.S. currency while onboard a vessel outfitted for smuggling.

Melendez was arrested after Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit agents spotted a boat traveling without lights north of Savana Island off St. Thomas at around 2 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2019, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Agents pulled their vessel alongside the 24-foot boat, which was being captained by Melendez, and activated their police blue lights and discharged a flare in an effort to get the vessel to yield. The vessel increased in speed, and agents shot one round into one of the engines, causing it to finally slow and stop.

The passenger, Jose Carlos Diaz Melendez, threw a duffel bag overboard, and agents recovered the bag and found roughly $287,000 in U.S. currency inside and also recovered a Glock firearm from the vessel, according to court records.

Jose Carlos Diaz Melendez was sentenced in June to serve 27 months in prison, according to court documents.

- Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.