Former St. John Police Chief and DPNR Chief Sentenced in Drug Case


A veteran St. John police sergeant and the former chief law enforcement officer of the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources official were sentenced to short federal prison terms April 17 for smuggling more than 15 pounds of cocaine.

Retired Police Sergeant Angelo Hill and DPNR Environmental Enforcement Chief Roberto Tapia received 21 months and 70 months, respectively. Hill pleaded guilty in December 2013 to drug conspiracy charges. Tapia pleaded guilty to racketeering related to drug trafficking.

Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez sent Hill and Tapia away after telling both men they did a lot to save themselves more time behind bars than they could have gotten by cooperating in the prosecution of other defendants.

Credit for Testifying Against Others
Judge Gomez credited the cooperation each defendant gave investigators after their arrests in handing out the sentences. Hill otherwise could have received up to 84 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

Tapia was facing life in prison, Gomez said.

The two men were arrested in May 2013 after a team of local and federal law enforcers used surveillance methods to track the course of a day-long drug smuggling operation on May 17. Six other individuals were arrested in the course of that investigation.

Seven kilograms of cocaine were confiscated from a backpack carried by Tapia after he made a trip from Cruz Bay by ferry boat after a rendezvous with Hill on St. John. 

During testimony given at a recent trial of another co-conspirator, Hill admitted helping Tapia, who was armed and in his DPNR uniform, retrieve the cocaine and transported Tapia to the Loredon Boynes Ferry Terminal in Cruz Bay in his unmarked police cruiser with the cocaine in a backpack.

Customs officers confronted Tapia as he left the vessel at the end of its trip across Pillsbury Sound to St. Thomas.

Four Puerto Rico men who had rendezvoused with Tapia to provide the money to buy the drugs, were subsequently charged and plead guilty.

Hill Testifies Against Cousin
Two other men, including Hill’s cousin, Walter Hill, a convicted felon, were tried seperately and Hill testified as to their involvement in the smuggling. The two are awaiting sentencing.

“I think you should take it to heart that this sentence is not as severe as it could have been,” Judge acknowledged.

Both Hill and Tapia were already being held in a federal detention center in Puerto Rico at the time they heard their fates. They were also ordered to serve supervised release at the end of their prison terms, to perform community service and to turn over business and personal financial records to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hill served with the V.I. Police Department for 25 years until he was arrested on May 24, 2013. Tapia was a former VIPD officer before he took on the duties as chief of Environmental Enforcement for DPNR.
Both men submitted their retirements after their arrest and are eligible for their individual pensions.

Airport Smugglers Get Heavier Terms
In an unrelated case, Judge Gomez sentenced a 25-year-old baggage supervisor at Cyril E. King Airport to 151 months in prison for attempting to smuggle more than 13 pounds of cocaine through Cyril King Airport on St. Thomas to a courier in September 2012.

The courier was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to the mainland U.S. and received a 120-month sentence.