Major buyer in Tapia drug ring gets 3 years in prison


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ST. THOMAS - One of the primary co-conspirators of convicted drug dealer Roberto Tapia was sentenced to 38 months in prison Tuesday for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Angel Negron-Beltran, 53, was arrested as part of the investigation of Tapia, former director of the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Environmental Enforcement. The same investigation netted seven other defendants, including former V.I. Police Sgt. Angelo Hill and Raymond Brown, Hector Alcenio, Stephen Torres, and Eddie Lopez-Lopez, Walter Hill and Edwin Monsanto. Negron-Beltran was charged in a 69-count indictment in November and pleaded guilty three months later to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Negron-Beltran, a food business owner and auto mechanic from Puerto Rico, was a major buyer in Tapia's ring, which spanned from the British Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico.

Negron-Beltran, who testified during the trials of Walter Hill and Brown, said that he first met Tapia 20 years ago during a sailboat race in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The two became friends, and in later years they worked together in the business of drug trafficking.

"He would always inform me when he had drugs," Negron-Beltran said through an interpreter at the time of his trial.

Prosecutors tried to convince the jury that Tapia and Negron-Beltran were sell-outs, turning over information on the defendants in order to strike better deals with the prosecutors. Negron-Beltran denied the accusation, stating, as did Tapia, that he was just recounting what happened.

During Negron-Beltran's sentencing hearing Tuesday, District Judge Curtis Gomez also mandated that Negron-Beltran be on supervised release for four years following his sentence and that he pay a $100 special assessment.

In April, Gomez sentenced Tapia, 55, who used his position as a DPNR official and admitted to using his former position with the V.I. Police Department during his smuggling activities, to 70 months imprisonment after Tapia pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering, or using his government position to engage in illicit activity.

Also in April, Gomez sentenced Angelo Hill, age unknown, to 21 months, after Hill pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine.

In May, Gomez sentenced Alcenio, 43, to 30 months after Alcenio pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine.

In June, Gomez sentenced Lopez-Lopez, 36, to 33 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Torres and Brown are scheduled for sentencing on Thursday; Walter Hill's sentencing is set for July 31.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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