Raid on Golden Grove results in contraband charges for 29 inmates


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ST. CROIX - A massive search by federal agents for contraband at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility in the overnight hours from April 7 to April 8 uncovered weapons, cellphones, illegal drugs and even a Sony PlayStation, authorities said.

A federal grand jury has also returned indictments against 29 inmates at Golden Grove, alleging they possessed illegal contraband - although the indictments were handed up several days before the search warrant was executed at the prison and stem from earlier contraband incidents, some of them dating back at least a year.

A statement the U.S. Attorney's Office issued Wednesday said that more inmates may be charged, based on the items that were seized during the search.

The indictments and the raid at the prison are part of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into the smuggling of illegal contraband into the prison by V.I. Corrections Bureau officers, inmates and others. The investigation, according to an affidavit supporting the search warrants, began in 2011.

"These indictments demonstrate the United States' ongoing commitment to identify, investigate and prosecute those responsible for possessing and introducing contraband into Golden Grove," U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe said in the prepared statement Wednesday.

"It is important for the community to have confidence that prison inmates do not have access to weapons or the ability to engage in criminal activity from behind bars."

The dangers of prison contraband have grabbed stateside headlines in recent weeks, with allegations that an inmate in North Carolina orchestrated, on a cellphone from prison, the kidnapping of a prosecutor's father.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the indictments of 27 of the 29 Golden Grove inmates have been unsealed, while two other indictments remain under seal.

The grand jury handed up the indictments on April 3. During the course of the next few weeks, the indictments gradually were unsealed as the inmates were arrested, taken before a federal judge, advised of their rights and arraigned.

If convicted, they face between one and five years in prison and fines of $200,000 to $250,000, depending on the nature of the contraband.

It is illegal under federal and territorial law for inmates to possess contraband such as weapons, controlled substances and cellular telephones in prison. It also is illegal to provide contraband to inmates.

The search of the prison was conducted while prisoners were locked in their cells during the overnight hours April 7 into April 8, for safety reasons.

The search warrants for the prison involved all inmate units for sentenced inmates and for pre-trial detainees, including cells and pertinent offices, multipurpose rooms, day rooms and basketball courts, as well as all workshop buildings, the library, the laundry buildings and the prison yard.

According to Wednesday's statement, the execution of the April 7 search warrant resulted in the seizure of:

- Approximately 55 weapons, including homemade knives, or shanks, and other contraband that could be used as weapons, including razor blades and scissors.

- 28 cellular telephones.

- A cellphone "booster".

- A Sony PlayStation.

- Illegal drugs, which were seized from 33 separate cells, along with drug packaging material and other drug paraphernalia.

"The safety of all inmates and employees is a priority in all correctional facilities. It is imperative that order is maintained inside the prison to prevent crimes from happening both in and outside as well," U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge Vito Guarino said in the release. "DEA will continue to work closely with other federal and territorial law enforcement and government agencies to reach that goal in the Golden Grove Correctional facility."

The problem of contraband at Golden Grove also frequently has been a focus in a separate civil case over unconstitutional conditions at the prison.

The criminal investigation is being led by the St. Croix DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes officers from the V.I. Police Department, with assistance from the FBI. Agencies assisting HIDTA with the April 7 and 8 search included the FBI, the U.S. Marshal's Service, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the V.I. Police Department and the V.I. National Guard.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

Federal indictments of 27 of 29 inmates at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility have been unsealed. The indictments are in connection with contraband seized at the prison before federal agents executed a federal search warrant on April 7. Additional inmates could face federal charges in connection with contraband seized during the April 7 search, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Inmate Contraband

Warren Ballantine cellphone

Al-Ahad Barbel cellphone

Romal Colbourne cellphone

Gregoire George shank/knife, cellphone

Toma Harrington marijuana

Renell Lettsome marijuana

Edwin Velez Martinez cellphone

Avery Monsanto marijuana

Shevron Percival cellphone

Michael Boyce shank/knife, cellphone

Emmet Bramble cellphone

Shamari Elmes shank/knife

Rusiel Encarnacion cellphone

Michael Ford cellphone

Paul Girard cellphone, marijuana

Calvin Lloyd cellphone, marijuana

Suhmeid Morris shank/knife, cellphone, marijuana

Leon Nisbett cellphone

Jervern Phillip shank/knife, cellphone

Henry Sampson marijuana

Tishawn Samuel shank/knife, cellphone, marijuana

Andelson Santiago shank/knife

Jahseen Simmonds shank/knife, cellphone

Anthon Smith cellphone

Rodney Stanley cellphone

Jameel West shank/knife

Delroy Woods shank/knife, cellphone

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