4 men arrested in seizure of $1M of cocaine plead not guilty
Published: October 24, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Four men arrested in connection with the seizure of more than $1 million of cocaine from a St. Thomas apartment pleaded not guilty in District Court on Wednesday.
Ignacio Batis-Joseph, Omar Norbelto James-Byar, Eldry Santos-Guzman and Miguel Antonio Arias-Ramirez were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Only one of the defendants, Arias-Ramirez, is a U.S. citizen; the others were in the Virgin Islands illegally, according to the in-court testimony of their family members and significant others.
All are being detained without bail.
According to court documents, a DEA agent in Puerto Rico contacted the St. Thomas DEA office after receiving information from a cooperating defendant about a smuggling operation on St. Thomas.
An undercover agent met with Batis-Joseph, also known as "Papo" in mid-July, and Batis-Joseph said he had "connections with several significant South American and Caribbean drug trafficking organizations that traffic cocaine."
Through numerous other phone conversations with Batis-Joseph, the undercover agent set up the purchase and transport of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, according to court documents.
In August, Batis-Joseph contacted the undercover agent and said that his boss, a Dominican man, had received a shipment of 100 kilograms of cocaine, court documents state. The agent agreed to travel to St. Thomas to buy the cocaine, first in a block of 10 kilograms, with the other 90 to follow in a separate transaction. He then met with Batis-Joseph, James-Byar and Santos-Guzman at Crown Bay Marina, and the three men produced 11.16 kilograms of cocaine, the affidavit states, and the men were immediately taken into custody.
Once they were arrested, the three men told DEA agents that a man named Miguel Bautista owned the cocaine and that he had about 80 kilograms stashed on the third floor of a building on Kronprindsens Gade.
Agents executed a search warrant there Sept. 11 and found 64 bricks containing 72.6 kilograms of cocaine.
Court records do not show that Bautista has been located and charged.
However, agents arrested Arias-Ramirez after he left the apartment of a woman several doors down. Neighbors said he lived in the searched apartment, and he identified himself as the stepson of Bautista and acknowledged that some of the seized cocaine had been in his apartment, according to court documents.
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