Four Defendants Plead Guilty to Roles in Cocaine Trafficking Organization
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 29, 2014|
ST. THOMAS—Four defendants involved in a multi-kilogram cocaine trafficking organization pleaded guilty today in District Court on St. Thomas, announced United States Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe. Angel L. Negron, 53, of Puerto Rico; Edwin Monsanto, 53, of St. Thomas; Eddie Lopez-Lopez, 37, of Puerto Rico; and Stephen Torres, 27, of Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez for their respective roles in a wide-ranging conspiracy to smuggle and distribute multi-kilograms of cocaine.
Negron-Beltran, Monsanto, and Torres pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic in cocaine, and Lopez-Lopez pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Negron-Beltran, Monsanto, and Lopez face sentences ranging from 10 years to life and maximum fines of $10 million. Torres faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million
All four defendants were remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service pending sentencing, which is scheduled for June 5, 2014. The charges against these four defendants arose in connection with the investigation and prosecution of Roberto Tapia, the former director of the Environmental Enforcement Division of the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural 2 Resources (DPNR) for using DPNR as a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal drug trafficking activities. Tapia pleaded guilty in September and is in custody awaiting sentencing. Two other co-conspirators, Angelo Hill and Hector Alcenio, also pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing.
The remaining two defendants in the case, Raymond Brown, and Walter Hill, are scheduled for trial on February 18, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Sharpe commended the work of the Federal Public Corruption Task Force, which spearheaded the investigation. This task force is composed of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Virgin Islands Police Department; the United States Marshals Service; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI); the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the United States Coast Guard; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and the Virgin Islands Inspector General Office.