Three St. Thomas Men Sentenced to Prison in Airport Drug Conspiracy
ST. THOMAS—District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez today sentenced Leayle Morton Benjamin, Jr.; Aben A. Marrero, Jr.; and Michael Samuels, each to 121 months in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, United States Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced.
On October 5, 2013, Benjamin, 50; Marrero, 34; and Samuels, 39, were convicted after a three-day jury trial. Evidence at trial established that from a time unknown but continuing to October 2011, Benjamin, Marrero, and Samuels conspired to smuggle cocaine through the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas to Atlanta, Georgia. Benjamin and Marrero were employees of the Virgin Islands Port Authority assigned to the maintenance division. The cocaine was passed under the partitions to a co-conspirator in the bathroom of the Cyril E. King Airport. On October 22, 2011, a co-conspirator was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, after arriving on board a flight from St. Thomas in possession of seven kilos of cocaine in his carry-on suitcase. The co-conspirator agreed to cooperate with the government and made consensually monitored telephone calls that resulted in the apprehension of another co-conspirator, Jace Edwards, who was found guilty in a separate trial and is awaiting sentencing. The cooperator pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Georgia to importation of cocaine. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to cooperate with the government and testified in the trial of Benjamin, Marrero, and Samuels.
In addition to the 121 months’ incarceration, each of the three defendants was placed on five years’ supervised release and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and forfeit $113,400, jointly and severally, to the United States. Each defendant was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
This case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Virgin Islands Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson L. Jones prosecuted the case.