Another defendant in Tapia drug trafficking case pleads not guilty
Published: September 26, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Just a day after Roberto Tapia pleaded guilty to racketeering in District Court on Tuesday, Eddie Lopez-Lopez became the sixth of the seven men charged in the case to plead not guilty in the drug trafficking case.
Lopez-Lopez and his attorney, Daniel Cevallos, did not show up for a scheduled court appearance Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist said Monday that his office would refrain from issuing another arrest warrant until it was clear whether Lopez-Lopez made the choice not to show up or whether he was unable or unaware of his order to show.
Cevallos was relieved of his position as Lopez-Lopez's attorney by court order and was replaced with attorney Judith Bourne.
"I have no clue as to what happened. I was just appointed yesterday," Bourne said during Wednesday's arraignment.
Lopez-Lopez appeared in court Wednesday with Bourne and pleaded not guilty, as the other five defendants who pleaded not guilty did on Monday. Tapia also had pleaded not guilty before he changed his plea Tuesday.
Tapia, who was the chief of Enforcement for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and the other defendants all entered new pleas after prosecutors issued a second superseding indictment.
V.I. Police Sgt. Angelo Hill, Raymond Brown, Hector Alcenio and Edwin Monsanto are accused of being cocaine brokers and suppliers.
Defendants Stephen Torres and Lopez-Lopez were the fishermen from Puerto Rico who federal agents said were waiting for a delivery of about 7 kilograms of cocaine from Tapia when he was arrested May 17.
The ring is believed to have been funneling cocaine from St. Thomas to a buyer in Puerto Rico, according to court documents.
The men are charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, with DPNR named throughout the 35-count indictment as the "enterprise."
Tapia's role appears to have been as a ringleader, according to the indictments.
Defense attorneys have moved to suppress the bulk of evidence obtained through wire taps and surveillance, contending that the wire taps were issued without sufficient probable cause and that everything discovered after and through them falls under the legal doctrine of "fruit of the poisoned tree."
Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez has yet to rule on any of the motions pertaining to admissibility.
An omnibus hearing, which is a proceeding in which such matters are argued and dealt with, is scheduled for Nov. 4, with a trial date set for Nov. 12.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.