87.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 19, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesHIDTA Program Receives National Award

HIDTA Program Receives National Award

A local narcotics investigation unit was named the 2013 Outstanding Task Force Effort, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced Friday.

White House Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske awarded the St. Thomas Major Organization Investigations unit of the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program the 2013 national award for Outstanding Task Force Effort, Sharpe said.

Sharpe, who served as the chairman of the PR/USVI HIDTA from June 2012 through December 2013, congratulated the St. Thomas MOI on being chosen for the award.

“Close collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners is critical to our efforts to reduce the supply of illicit drugs and the violence associated with its distribution and use,” Sharpe said.

Advertising (skip)

Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division, also praised the St. Thomas group.

“The DEA Caribbean Division is very proud of the accomplishments of our St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force and we congratulate them for this well-deserved 2013 ONDCP Director’s Award,” he said. “Key to the St Thomas HIDTA Task Force sustained success is the close coordination and joint work with our law enforcement partners VIPD, ATF, FBI, ICE, HSI, IRS, CBP, and the USMS.”

Disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations is fundamental to the mission of the PR/USVI HIDTA, according to the announcement. To reach that goal, the St. Thomas Major Organization Investigations unit formed an operation known by law enforcement as “Operation Franco’s Folly/Excess Baggage" that targeted the trafficking of narcotics through the St. Thomas Airport. Through the course of the operation, law enforcement used innovative investigative tactics while maintaining a high level of secrecy, which led to the arrest and indictment of 28 people, the seizure of more than 40 kilograms of cocaine destined for Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia, and the seizure of a substantial amount of assets.

Operation Franco’s Folly also uncovered significant public corruption, which led to the arrest and prosecution of several airport baggage handlers and a Transportation Security Administration officer, whose official positions and access to sensitive areas of the airport posed serious risks to national security, the announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

According to the news release, it was that operation that revealed that Roberto Tapia, director of Enforcement Operations for the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources used his official law enforcement position as well as a DPNR vessel and automobile to facilitate narcotics smuggling.

Angelo Hill, former Chief of the Virgin Islands Police Department, assisted Tapia by helping him traffic narcotics and avoid detection by federal law enforcement.

In September 2013, Tapia pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with his use of DPNR as a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal drug trafficking activities. Angelo Hill also pleaded guilty to related charges. Both men are in custody awaiting sentencing.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s HIDTA program provides federal resources to designated areas to help reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences, Sharpe said. Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution, and chronic use of drugs and money laundering.

There are 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and cover 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are in 46 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Sharpe also commended the agencies that comprise the St. Thomas MOI for their efforts. Agencies taking part include the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Virgin Islands Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Additional information about the HIDTA program is available on the ONDCP Web site: www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

A local narcotics investigation unit was named the 2013 Outstanding Task Force Effort, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced Friday.

White House Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske awarded the St. Thomas Major Organization Investigations unit of the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program the 2013 national award for Outstanding Task Force Effort, Sharpe said.

Sharpe, who served as the chairman of the PR/USVI HIDTA from June 2012 through December 2013, congratulated the St. Thomas MOI on being chosen for the award.

“Close collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners is critical to our efforts to reduce the supply of illicit drugs and the violence associated with its distribution and use,” Sharpe said.

Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division, also praised the St. Thomas group.

“The DEA Caribbean Division is very proud of the accomplishments of our St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force and we congratulate them for this well-deserved 2013 ONDCP Director's Award,” he said. “Key to the St Thomas HIDTA Task Force sustained success is the close coordination and joint work with our law enforcement partners VIPD, ATF, FBI, ICE, HSI, IRS, CBP, and the USMS.”

Disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations is fundamental to the mission of the PR/USVI HIDTA, according to the announcement. To reach that goal, the St. Thomas Major Organization Investigations unit formed an operation known by law enforcement as “Operation Franco’s Folly/Excess Baggage" that targeted the trafficking of narcotics through the St. Thomas Airport. Through the course of the operation, law enforcement used innovative investigative tactics while maintaining a high level of secrecy, which led to the arrest and indictment of 28 people, the seizure of more than 40 kilograms of cocaine destined for Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia, and the seizure of a substantial amount of assets.

Operation Franco’s Folly also uncovered significant public corruption, which led to the arrest and prosecution of several airport baggage handlers and a Transportation Security Administration officer, whose official positions and access to sensitive areas of the airport posed serious risks to national security, the announcement from the U.S. Attorney's office said.

According to the news release, it was that operation that revealed that Roberto Tapia, director of Enforcement Operations for the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources used his official law enforcement position as well as a DPNR vessel and automobile to facilitate narcotics smuggling.

Angelo Hill, former Chief of the Virgin Islands Police Department, assisted Tapia by helping him traffic narcotics and avoid detection by federal law enforcement.

In September 2013, Tapia pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with his use of DPNR as a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal drug trafficking activities. Angelo Hill also pleaded guilty to related charges. Both men are in custody awaiting sentencing.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s HIDTA program provides federal resources to designated areas to help reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences, Sharpe said. Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution, and chronic use of drugs and money laundering.

There are 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and cover 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are in 46 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Sharpe also commended the agencies that comprise the St. Thomas MOI for their efforts. Agencies taking part include the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Virgin Islands Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Additional information about the HIDTA program is available on the ONDCP Web site: www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov