Seven Indicted in Alleged Drug-Murder Ring

A St. Croix man pleaded not guilty to federal drug and gun running charges Friday. He was one of seven St. Croix residents prosecutors indicted in an alleged drug trafficking, gun running, and murder conspiracy that began in 2013.

Jahkiebo Joseph pleaded not guilty in the case prosecutors first filed in 2019. The indictment was not unsealed until Thursday. In March 2020, the court allowed Joseph to attend a welding school in Houston, Texas. His lawyer said there was no telling how long the “complex” case would take to reach trial.

Prosecutors charged Joseph in 13 parts of the 23-count indictment — drug trafficking and gun smuggling but not the murder charges.

Prosecutors alleged Ivan James and Joh Williams murdered 31-year-old Levar Pogson of Estate Richmond, Christiansted, on May 25, 2017, with a rifle and a handgun the group had illegally brought into the territory.

Williams had been previously convicted in a 2009 murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2012. His conviction was overturned in 2013, however, on a technicality.

James was the subject of a brief manhunt after being named a suspect in a February 2018 double homicide at a cockfighting pit. U.S. Marshals eventually found him hiding in Puerto Rico.

Malachi Benjamin was also a person of interest in the 2019 double homicide. Police found him at Juan F. Louis hospital after being stabbed in the face. Benjamin was convicted in 2021 of cocaine dealing after police found drugs in a traffic stop.

Tillisa Ceaser, 35, was indicted Thursday on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cannabis. She was stopped by the Homeland Security Administration in 2019 for allegedly attempting to send large amounts of cocaine from St. Croix to Florida on commercial flights from St. Thomas.

Also indicted Thursday were Kai James and Ariel Petersen, both for various drug and gun charges.

U.S. Attorney Delia Smith asked that the judge force the defendants to forfeit any claimed ownership of the 10 weapons in question as well as any proceeds the court finds to be acquired through illegal activities.