Defendant in Tapia case ordered held without bail
Published: August 8, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - A District Court judge ordered a man accused of brokering more than 100 kilograms of cocaine as part of a drug smuggling ring to be held without bail Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors said Hector Alcenio, a Dominican Republic native, was involved in a drug smuggling operation with Roberto Tapia, chief of enforcement for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
Alcenio entered pleas of not guilty on Aug. 1 to five counts of an indictment charging him with being a "cocaine supplier and distributor."
Alcenio's detention hearing had been postponed from Aug. 1 to Wednesday for his defense attorney to secure witnesses and a third-party custodian. However, no one was able or willing to serve as a witness or third party custodian as of yet, defense attorney Nizar Dewood said Wednesday.
According to the indictment, Alcenio conspired with Tapia to possess and distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine from September to May.
U.S. Attorney Kelly Lake said that, based on the charges against Alcenio and based on the fact that the court has not determined whether he is a lawful resident of the United States, Alcenio is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Lake outlined some of the evidence against Alcenio on Wednesday, including that federal agents had intercepted phone calls between Alcenio and a co-conspirator, named as Tapia in the indictment, arranging the shipment of 15 kilograms of cocaine between Sept. 26 and May 20.
Lake also said that Alcenio engaged in a separate conspiracy, documented by other intercepted phone calls, to arrange the shipment of 100 kilograms of cocaine between April 1 and June 3.
The counts specific to the second conspiracy name Tapia and Edwin Monsanto, who was arrested July 11, as the co-conspirators.
During the hearing, Dewood said the evidence against his client was vague and insufficient.
"We have phone calls, nothing more. You cannot even allege one meeting," Dewood said.
Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller said that probable cause for the charges against Alcenio already had been found by a grand jury and that the defense had failed to present evidence disputing that Alcenio was a flight risk and a danger to the community.
He remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
Alcenio, Monsanto and Raymond Brown are three defendants who were arrested after a sting in May resulted in Tapia being taken into custody at the Red Hook ferry terminal on May 17. Agents found him in possession of 7.72 kilograms of cocaine, which said he got from V.I. Police Department Sgt. Angelo Hill, who was arrested on St. Thomas on May 24.
Since the initial sting, an expanded indictment alleges that Tapia also engaged in federal program theft, the seeking of bribes for DPNR contracts and embezzlement. Tapia used his DPNR-issued boat and vehicle to traffic drugs, according to the indictment.
Tapia and all other defendants have pleaded not guilty in District Court.
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