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HomeNewsArchivesWitnesses Finger St. Thomas Drug Dealer as V.I. Kingpin

Witnesses Finger St. Thomas Drug Dealer as V.I. Kingpin

Former members of an international drug ring that smuggled Colombian cocaine from Venezuela to the U.S. mainland pointed out St. Thomas businessman and twice-convicted drug dealer Gelean Mark in District Court Wednesday, naming him as the organization’s local contractor who got the drugs onto U.S.-bound flights through Cyril E. King Airport.
The testimony came just a day after Trevor Nicholas Friday Jr. pointed to Mark and co-defendant Jerome Blyden as the two men who he said shot him numerous times in front of Mark’s Smith Bay pet shop in 2004.
Mark and Blyden, who was a V.I. Police sergeant at the time of his alleged crimes, face multiple federal and local charges of racketeering, weapons possession and attempted murder in a dramatic federal trial that concluded a third day Wednesday – two full years after they were indicted.
According to the 12-page indictment, Mark ran a local racket called “The Enterprise,” involved in local crack and cocaine distribution, dog- and cockfighting and associated gambling, which used violence as a means to stay on top and protect its people and interests.
Blyden worked as Mark’s bodyguard and did much of the local dirty work, according to prosecutors and numerous witnesses who have variously called Blyden Mark’s “enforcer,” “security,” and “right-hand man” during testimony this week.
On Wednesday, convicted drug lord James “Jimmy” Springette began the day by saying that Mark “was more of a contractor for the organization,” distinguishing Mark from Springette’s trusted lieutenants, two of whom testified Wednesday.
“We needed someone to assist us in getting the drugs from the Virgin Islands to the United States,” Springette said.
As a cooperative witness for the government, wearing the beige jumpsuit of a federal prisoner to prove it, Springette slipped and mentioned a previous trial. His slip gave Mark’s defense attorney, Mark Hodge, a chance to call for a mistrial, which Chief Judge Curtis Gomez quickly denied.
Springette and the others were then free to describe how the drugs got to the territory and then on to the mainland with help from Mark.
According to Springette, planes that took off from the airfield on Springette’s 2,200-acre ranch in the Venezuela hinterland air dropped 30-kilo bails of high-grade cocaine into waters northeast of Tortola. Springette’s cousin, Elton Turnbull, and BVI resident Bob Hodge then pulled the bails onto Hodge’s 31-foot fishing boat with gaffs and sent them ashore on Tortola by dinghy to be stored and separated by destination.
Elton Turnbull, also a convicted drug smuggler wearing penitentiary beige in court Wednesday, said Bob Hodge then took the cocaine by boat to St. Thomas ,where Mark, aka “Kerwin,” stored it at one location in Contant and another location at what witnesses referred to as “The Farm” — an isolated compound near Caret Bay on St. Thomas’ north side, where Mark allegedly hosted dog fights.
Springette said at least seven such drops consisting of at least 3,000 kilos of cocaine arrived in St. Thomas that way during the time he said Mark became involved, from 2001-2002.
Turnbull set the date of Mark’s involvement a little earlier, in 2000, while Glenson Isaac, another co-conspirator who testified Wednesday, said Mark had been involved in the international drug smuggling operation since at least 1999.
Turnbull said Mark got the contract to move the drugs after he proved that he had employees at Delta Airlines who could clandestinely switch identical leather laptop cases with a ticketed drug courier to slip the drugs by U.S. Customs and onto commercial flights – just like in the movies. He said Mark used that “modus operandi” at least 15-20 times a year by the time Turnbull got busted in October 2002.
The drugs would arrive by courier in either Charleston or Raleigh, N.C., and be picked up and driven by Turnbull’s hired drivers to his home in Greensboro. He said he waited for Mark to tell him when the drugs would arrive.
“Mark would call me on any specified day and say, ‘We’re working today,’” Turnbull said Wednesday.
Turnbull said he would then sell the cocaine wholesale to any of his eight or nine regular buyers for $22,000 – keeping $2,000 as a fee and sending the remaining $20,000 back to Springette exactly the way the drugs arrived, minus the airdrops into the sea.
North Carolina — home to Turnbull and Isaac — is ground zero for the government’s case.
It was there that Turnbull said he first met Mark at a UPS distribution center. And it was in North Carolina that Isaac also said he first met Blyden.
Isaac said Mark “called me up one day and said he was sending his bodyguard” to his house in Hillsboro. “He told me he was sending him to cool out,” Isaac said. He often referred to Blyden by his first name, Jerome, during his testimony Wednesday.
In his cross-examination, Blyden’s attorney, Treston Moore, said that Tuesday was the first time Isaac had ever seen Blyden in person.
“The very first time I met Mr. Blyden was when he come to my house in North Carolina,” Isaac said, correcting Moore.
It was also in North Carolina that Mark, Blyden, Turnbull and Isaac indulged their love of dog fighting when they weren’t doing so on St. Thomas, according to Turnbull and Isaac.
Isaac said he ran a kennel there and sold Mark at least five fighting dogs, pit bulls, for $2,000 each for fights in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.
Isaac, who said he was a childhood friend of Mark’s from growing up on St. Thomas, said they shared a relationship as adults “dog fighting and selling drugs.” He recalled how Mark ran many high-stakes dogfights at The Farm near Caret Bay.
“If we fight a dog, we bet money on the dog,” Isaac said, adding that the average purse for a fight was about $5,000, but sometimes rose to as much as $40,000 or even $50,000.
He recalled one event in 2004 in which two of Mark’s dogs won, each netting him $40,000 for a total of $80,000 for the day, all of which he said was collected by Blyden, who he said was dressed in black combat gear, toting an assault rifle and wearing a black ski mask. Blyden’s wife testified earlier that he purchased and often carried a black ski mask.
“Jerome did all the security at all the fights,” Isaac said Wednesday. “At all fights at The Farm, Jerome Blyden collect [the money]", he said.
“Who hosted this fight?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Nolan Page, referring to the fight in 2004 at Isaac said which Mark won $80,000.
“Gelean Mark,” Isaac said.
“Who promoted this fight?” Paige asked.
“Gelean Mark,” Isaac said.
Paige and co-prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist, repeatedly asked similar questions to establish Mark as the shot-caller in the dog-fighting arena and cast Blyden as the hired gun in order to seal the layers of federal racketeering charges related to gambling at the fights.
Mark’s attorney, Mark Hodge, seemed to have difficulty dismantling such constructions and, as a result, was briefly fired by Mark in a surprise bit of courtroom drama Wednesday.
“It’s very difficult to represent yourself,” Judge Gomez warned Mark before giving him 20 minutes to reconsider his surprise move. Mark then changed his mind, giving Hodge a second chance and apparently a new mandate, as Hodge thereafter objected to nearly everything the prosecution presented.
Hodge, an appointed counsel, has never before defended a case before a jury and has several times asked to be removed from the case, complaining that he did not have time to prepare. Reinstated as Mark’s attorney, though, he pledged to be a zealous advocate for his client.
The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its case Thursday, at which time Hodge and Moore will mount a defense. The trial is set to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.

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Former members of an international drug ring that smuggled Colombian cocaine from Venezuela to the U.S. mainland pointed out St. Thomas businessman and twice-convicted drug dealer Gelean Mark in District Court Wednesday, naming him as the organization’s local contractor who got the drugs onto U.S.-bound flights through Cyril E. King Airport.
The testimony came just a day after Trevor Nicholas Friday Jr. pointed to Mark and co-defendant Jerome Blyden as the two men who he said shot him numerous times in front of Mark’s Smith Bay pet shop in 2004.
Mark and Blyden, who was a V.I. Police sergeant at the time of his alleged crimes, face multiple federal and local charges of racketeering, weapons possession and attempted murder in a dramatic federal trial that concluded a third day Wednesday – two full years after they were indicted.
According to the 12-page indictment, Mark ran a local racket called “The Enterprise,” involved in local crack and cocaine distribution, dog- and cockfighting and associated gambling, which used violence as a means to stay on top and protect its people and interests.
Blyden worked as Mark’s bodyguard and did much of the local dirty work, according to prosecutors and numerous witnesses who have variously called Blyden Mark’s “enforcer,” “security,” and “right-hand man” during testimony this week.
On Wednesday, convicted drug lord James “Jimmy” Springette began the day by saying that Mark “was more of a contractor for the organization,” distinguishing Mark from Springette’s trusted lieutenants, two of whom testified Wednesday.
“We needed someone to assist us in getting the drugs from the Virgin Islands to the United States,” Springette said.
As a cooperative witness for the government, wearing the beige jumpsuit of a federal prisoner to prove it, Springette slipped and mentioned a previous trial. His slip gave Mark’s defense attorney, Mark Hodge, a chance to call for a mistrial, which Chief Judge Curtis Gomez quickly denied.
Springette and the others were then free to describe how the drugs got to the territory and then on to the mainland with help from Mark.
According to Springette, planes that took off from the airfield on Springette’s 2,200-acre ranch in the Venezuela hinterland air dropped 30-kilo bails of high-grade cocaine into waters northeast of Tortola. Springette’s cousin, Elton Turnbull, and BVI resident Bob Hodge then pulled the bails onto Hodge’s 31-foot fishing boat with gaffs and sent them ashore on Tortola by dinghy to be stored and separated by destination.
Elton Turnbull, also a convicted drug smuggler wearing penitentiary beige in court Wednesday, said Bob Hodge then took the cocaine by boat to St. Thomas ,where Mark, aka “Kerwin,” stored it at one location in Contant and another location at what witnesses referred to as “The Farm” -- an isolated compound near Caret Bay on St. Thomas’ north side, where Mark allegedly hosted dog fights.
Springette said at least seven such drops consisting of at least 3,000 kilos of cocaine arrived in St. Thomas that way during the time he said Mark became involved, from 2001-2002.
Turnbull set the date of Mark’s involvement a little earlier, in 2000, while Glenson Isaac, another co-conspirator who testified Wednesday, said Mark had been involved in the international drug smuggling operation since at least 1999.
Turnbull said Mark got the contract to move the drugs after he proved that he had employees at Delta Airlines who could clandestinely switch identical leather laptop cases with a ticketed drug courier to slip the drugs by U.S. Customs and onto commercial flights – just like in the movies. He said Mark used that “modus operandi” at least 15-20 times a year by the time Turnbull got busted in October 2002.
The drugs would arrive by courier in either Charleston or Raleigh, N.C., and be picked up and driven by Turnbull’s hired drivers to his home in Greensboro. He said he waited for Mark to tell him when the drugs would arrive.
“Mark would call me on any specified day and say, ‘We’re working today,’” Turnbull said Wednesday.
Turnbull said he would then sell the cocaine wholesale to any of his eight or nine regular buyers for $22,000 – keeping $2,000 as a fee and sending the remaining $20,000 back to Springette exactly the way the drugs arrived, minus the airdrops into the sea.
North Carolina -- home to Turnbull and Isaac -- is ground zero for the government’s case.
It was there that Turnbull said he first met Mark at a UPS distribution center. And it was in North Carolina that Isaac also said he first met Blyden.
Isaac said Mark “called me up one day and said he was sending his bodyguard” to his house in Hillsboro. “He told me he was sending him to cool out,” Isaac said. He often referred to Blyden by his first name, Jerome, during his testimony Wednesday.
In his cross-examination, Blyden’s attorney, Treston Moore, said that Tuesday was the first time Isaac had ever seen Blyden in person.
“The very first time I met Mr. Blyden was when he come to my house in North Carolina,” Isaac said, correcting Moore.
It was also in North Carolina that Mark, Blyden, Turnbull and Isaac indulged their love of dog fighting when they weren’t doing so on St. Thomas, according to Turnbull and Isaac.
Isaac said he ran a kennel there and sold Mark at least five fighting dogs, pit bulls, for $2,000 each for fights in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.
Isaac, who said he was a childhood friend of Mark's from growing up on St. Thomas, said they shared a relationship as adults “dog fighting and selling drugs.” He recalled how Mark ran many high-stakes dogfights at The Farm near Caret Bay.
“If we fight a dog, we bet money on the dog,” Isaac said, adding that the average purse for a fight was about $5,000, but sometimes rose to as much as $40,000 or even $50,000.
He recalled one event in 2004 in which two of Mark’s dogs won, each netting him $40,000 for a total of $80,000 for the day, all of which he said was collected by Blyden, who he said was dressed in black combat gear, toting an assault rifle and wearing a black ski mask. Blyden’s wife testified earlier that he purchased and often carried a black ski mask.
“Jerome did all the security at all the fights,” Isaac said Wednesday. “At all fights at The Farm, Jerome Blyden collect [the money]", he said.
“Who hosted this fight?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Nolan Page, referring to the fight in 2004 at Isaac said which Mark won $80,000.
“Gelean Mark,” Isaac said.
“Who promoted this fight?” Paige asked.
“Gelean Mark,” Isaac said.
Paige and co-prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist, repeatedly asked similar questions to establish Mark as the shot-caller in the dog-fighting arena and cast Blyden as the hired gun in order to seal the layers of federal racketeering charges related to gambling at the fights.
Mark’s attorney, Mark Hodge, seemed to have difficulty dismantling such constructions and, as a result, was briefly fired by Mark in a surprise bit of courtroom drama Wednesday.
“It’s very difficult to represent yourself,” Judge Gomez warned Mark before giving him 20 minutes to reconsider his surprise move. Mark then changed his mind, giving Hodge a second chance and apparently a new mandate, as Hodge thereafter objected to nearly everything the prosecution presented.
Hodge, an appointed counsel, has never before defended a case before a jury and has several times asked to be removed from the case, complaining that he did not have time to prepare. Reinstated as Mark’s attorney, though, he pledged to be a zealous advocate for his client.
The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its case Thursday, at which time Hodge and Moore will mount a defense. The trial is set to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.