ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents, seized Friday nearly $800,000 in undeclared currency found inside a 25-foot vessel that departed Fajardo navigating to St. Thomas.
Jose Ernesto Vazquez Colon and Abnel Belordo Colon made their initial appearances in federal court on Saturday in St. Thomas.
“This is the second incident within one week in which Transnational Criminal Organizations seek to move currency,” stated Johnny Morales, Director, Air and Marine Operations for the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch. “AMO has very advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities to detect and interdict them throughout our coastal borders.”
Near midnight of Sep. 20, AMO Marine Interdiction agents (MIAs) in St. Thomas received information about a suspicious boat, departing the vicinity of Fajardo.
The MIAs located a 25’ a fiberglass center console vessel, with a single outboard engine, operating without navigation lights and moving east toward St. Thomas, with two occupants onboard.
The MIAs activated the blue lights, and the vessel operator failed to heave, continuing toward St. Thomas, as the other occupant jettisoned bags into the water. Agents marked the location with a glow sticks. The agents fired warning shots and the vessel continued making evasive moves. .
The Agents disabled the engine, stopping the vessel, and arrested the two occupants.
The MIAs recovered multiple packages of cash from the vessel as well vacuum-sealed bags of cash that were loosely floating in the water.
Special Agents with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations will undertake he investigation and prosecution of this incident.
Assistant United States Attorney Nathan Brooks is leading the case. A complaint is merely a formal charging document, and it is not evidence of guilt.
Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
On Sep. 17, MIAs seized over $1.1 million and arrested three men transporting currency from Vieques, Puerto Rico towards St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft, and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO conducts its mission in the air and maritime environments at and beyond the border, and within the nation's interior.
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