St. John Boat Captain Convicted of Drug Trafficking


A St. John ferry boat captain was convicted March 26 in federal court on drug trafficking and related charges

Walter Hill was found guilty at the end of a three-day trial that began March 23. Defendant Hill worked in the maritime industry for Transportation Services of St. John and later for an on-island resort.

Hill was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and using a communications device to facilitate drug trafficking. He was one of eight men arrested as part of a wider drug trafficking conspiracy.

Five co-conspirators, including two law enforcement officers, have already pleaded guilty and are in federal detention pending sentencing. Another co-defendant, Raymond Brown Jr., was convicted Wednesday, March 26, along with Hill on the lesser charge of using a communications device to facilitate drug trafficking.

District Court Judge Curtis Gomez set sentencing for July 31.

Brown and Walter Hill were arrested as part of a continuing investigation that came to light on May 17, 2013, when Department of Planning and Natural Resources Chief of Environmental Enforcement Roberto Tapia was arrested at the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine Terminal in Red Hook, St. Thomas.

Several days after Tapia’s arrest, Virgin Islands Police Department Sergeant Angelo Hill was also arrested and charged as part of the conspiracy. Angelo Hill, a 25-year veteran of the VIPD, has family ties to Walter Hill.

Both Tapia and Angelo Hill testified against Walter Hill during the three-day trial. Both admitted under questioning by defense attorneys they did so in hopes of mitigating harsh prison terms they both face.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe issued a statement late Thursday, March 27, summing up the prosecution’s case.

“According to the evidence presented at trial, in May of 2013, Walter Hill supplied Roberto Tapia with seven kilograms of cocaine,” according to the statement. “Roberto Tapia testified that he traveled to Sail Rock, a small islet approximately three miles off the coast of St. Thomas, using a DPNR vessel to pick up money which he used to purchase seven kilograms of cocaine from Walter Hill.”

“Another coconspirator, Angelo Hill, testified that on at least two occasions Walter Hill and Roberto Tapia transported kilogram quantities of cocaine to Puerto Rico,” according to the statement. “Angelo Hill, who is Walter Hill’s cousin, was a Sergeant with the Virgin Islands Police Department at the time of the offenses. The trial evidence also showed that in December of 2012, Raymond Brown spoke to Roberto Tapia via cellular telephone in connection with a drug trafficking crime.”

In his testimony, Tapia admitted that he worked the drug trade in the Virgin Islands for 10 years, while he was employed by the VIPD and later when he assumed the duties as DPNR’s Chief of Environmental Enforcement.

Angelo Hill said during his testimony that he was involved in drug trafficking activities prior to the incident that led to his arrest. He also told the court he got involved with the hand-off of cocaine to Tapia after he took a loan from Walter Hill.

After accepting the loan, Angelo Hill said his cousin offered him forgiveness of repayment if he helped to move seven kilograms of cocaine from a pick up point to the Loredon Boynes ferry dock in Cruz Bay.

The retired police sergeant also testified that Tapia and Walter Hill transported cocaine on separate occasions to Puerto Rico; Tapia by using his DPNR-issued patrol boat, Walter Hill by using a vessel owned by the St. John ferry company he worked for at the time.

Because of his involvement in the current conspiracy and a prior conviction on similar offenses 20 years ago, Walter Hill faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine.