Feds: Venezuelans Nabbed With Nearly Three Tons of Cocaine

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Four Venezuelan men attempted to land 2.97 tons of cocaine in St. Croix, authorities said. On St. Thomas, two Puerto Rican men were sentenced in an unrelated cocaine plot. (Shutterstock image)

Authorities charged four Venezuelan men with attempting to land nearly three tons of cocaine on St. Croix, United States Attorney Delia L. Smith said Monday.

Customs and Border Protection detected a suspicious vessel roughly 67 miles south of St. Croix late Feb. 11 and, with assistance from the British Royal Navy, attempted to intercept the ship. They allegedly witnessed people aboard tossing bales of what officials said later proved to be cocaine overboard. The boat landed at Long Point, St. Croix, at roughly 3 a.m. and authorities soon after found four soaking wet men wandering around and open field in Estate Carlton, Smith said in a written statement.

Daniel Marval-Navarro, Desael Carreno-Carreno, Felix Jose Bermudez, and Luis Lugo-Marval, all of Venezuela, were taken into custody, she said.

“Agents recovered the vessel and 74 bales containing 2,100 kilograms of cocaine. The United States Coast Guard later recovered an additional 26 bales, which contained over 600 kilograms of cocaine. Based on estimates by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, the street value of 2,700 kilograms of cocaine is in excess of $77 million,” Smith said.

On St. Thomas, Smith announced Monday that Pedro Juan Ramos-Ramirez, 28, and Gerald Albert Cruz, 27, both of Puerto Rico, had been sentenced to 48 and 57 months in prison for an unrelated cocaine plot.

On Dec. 29, 2021, Customs and Border Protection Air Marine Operations officers interdicted a go-fast vessel operating without navigational lights heading towards Puerto Rico, according to court documents. As the officer pursued the vessel, the occupants began throwing bails into the ocean. Officers disabled the vessel’s engine, forcing it to stop, and later recovered the bales from the ocean, which contained 73 bricks of cocaine weighing 75 kilograms.

A third man, Johnny Arias-Rodriguez, had been charged but, for reasons not disclosed by Smith, had not been sentenced.