Federal agents arrested and charged St. Thomas resident Jeffrey Carty with possession with intent to distribute cocaine after Customs and Border Patrol agents allegedly found 2.6 kilograms (more than 5-1/2 pounds) of cocaine hidden inside two candles in his luggage Aug. 8, according to court documents.
Carty flew from St. Thomas to Charlotte, N.C., that day. When Transportation Security Administration officers inspected his checked luggage, they "noticed an anomaly in a box that contained two large candles," according to the probable cause affidavit filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Customs and Border Patrol officers probed one of the candles, and found a powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine. They took apart the candles to find two packages wrapped in black tape, filled with cocaine. The "objects containing the white powdery substance weighed approximately 2.6 kilograms," and Carty was arrested right after the field test indicated the presence of cocaine, according to the affidavit.
Carty joins the extensive ranks of individuals arrested or convicted of smuggling more than a kilogram of cocaine into or out of the territory in recent months.
In March, federal drug agents and the territory’s Blue Lightning marine unit took part in an operation that intercepted a ship carrying more than 1-1/2 tons of cocaine, and netted three smuggling suspects, who are awaiting extradition. (See related links below)
In May, Planning and Natural Resources Chief Enforcement Officer Roberto Tapia and V.I. Police Sgt. Angelo Hill were arrested, along with several other individuals, for allegedly smuggling at least 7.7 kilos of cocaine.
In June, police arrested Israel Felix of St. Croix, confiscating about a kilogram of cocaine.
In July, more V.I. government employees were arrested on cocaine smuggling charges when Cyril E. King Airport employees Aben Marrero and Leayle Benjamin were arrested for allegedly using their positions in the airport maintenance department to arrange drug shipments, along with a third individual, Michael Samuels, who is not a government employee. The indictment outlines two transactions, totaling 14 kilograms of cocaine, but allege a long-term conspiracy in which an unknown amount of cocaine traveled by commercial plane from the territory to individuals in Atlanta and Miami.
On August 9, Jamhila Hodge and Caleb Webster pleaded guilty to smuggling 30 kilograms of cocaine (more than 60 pounds), in addition to child pornography charges.