Tapia co-conspirator Angelo Hill pleads guilty to drug trafficking


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ST. THOMAS - Federal authorities now have guilty pleas from both the suspected ringleaders of a high-profile drug trafficking case, and another defendant may be pleading guilty today.

V.I. Police Sgt. Angelo Hill pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in District Court. His plea change initially was scheduled for Tuesday, and the court released the plea agreement between Hill and the U.S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday.

Hill pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy, or count 37 of the third superseding indictment, which also implicates Roberto Tapia, former director of Enforcement for the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Hill's plea agreement maintains that Hill will face a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life; a maximum fine of $10 million; a maximum of five years supervised release and a $100 monetary assessment.

His sentencing is scheduled for April 17.

Hill could be sentenced more time and more fines than his co-defendant, Tapia.

Tapia pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in a second superseding indictment on Sept. 24. He also faces a sentence of life-imprisonment, though no sentence for a minimum time of incarceration is listed in his plea agreement. Tapia faces a maximum of $250,000 in fines, a minimum of three years supervised release and a $100 monetary assessment.

Tapia's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Neither Hill nor Tapia, who both were arrested in May, will face any other charges that were listed in the initial indictment, which included 43 pages of allegations that included racketeering, drug conspiracy, theft, embezzlement and fraud charges.

Also named in the multiple indictments are Hector Alcenio, Raymond Brown and Edwin Monsanto, all of St. Thomas; and two fishermen from Puerto Rico, Eddie Lopez-Lopez and Stephen Torres.

At press time, Alcenio had a change of plea hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. today, according to the District Court website calendar.

In November, Walter Hill and Angel Negron-Beltran also were arrested in connection with the case.

Walter Hill - who is Angelo Hill's cousin - is a St. John ferry boat captain who travels regularly between St. John and Fajardo. Negron-Beltran is a food vendor in Salinas, Puerto Rico.

Tapia was the first of the group to be arrested.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents apprehended Tapia May 17 at the Red Hook Ferry Terminal and found 7.72 kilograms of cocaine in a backpack that he was carrying.

Tapia had traveled in his DPNR-issued boat and met with Torres and Lopez-Lopez earlier that day to pick up cash for narcotics, according to court documents.

Tapia was seen taking the backpack to St. John where, according to the testimony of FBI special agent Jackson Purkey, he was observed meeting Angelo Hill.

Angelo Hill was arrested May 24 on St. Thomas, and federal agents believe he sold the 7.72 kilograms of cocaine to Tapia.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Lake and Kim Lindquist are prosecuting the case.

Alcenio, Brown and Monsanto all have trials set for Jan. 15, alongside Walter Hill and Negron-Beltran.

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

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