Federal agents swept through the Golden Grove Adult Correctional and Detention Facility on Monday night, executing a warrant to search for contraband, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced Tuesday.
Sharpe is U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. He was joined in the announcement by Vito S. Guarino, special agent in charge of the drug Enforcement Administration Caribbean Division, and Carlos Cases, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Juan Field Division.
The search warrant authorized federal agents to search inmates’ cells and certain common areas, such as the prison yard and workshop areas, for contraband, weapons, controlled substances and cellular telephones. Under federal and territorial law, it is illegal for inmates to possess such items.
Federal inmates awaiting trial and those already sentenced and pending transfer to a federal correctional facility are held at Golden Grove.
The search is part of a multiyear federal investigation involving the smuggling of illegal contraband into Golden Grove by correctional officers, inmates and others. According to the affidavit in support of the warrant, correctional officers have been directly involved in the smuggling of contraband into the prison and are often paid by inmates to do so.
The affidavit also states that many inmates regularly possess contraband and details the methods used by correctional officers and inmates to smuggle and hide contraband inside the prison. These methods include the use of cellular phones by inmates to arrange for delivery of contraband to officers, the smuggling of contraband into the prison by corrections officers using their personal belongings, and the concealment of contraband by inmates in their cells and other places in the prison.
The affidavit also alleged:
– that between February 2012 and February 2014, 51 of approximately 350 prison cells at Golden Grove have been searched by the Bureau of Corrections. These searches have resulted in the seizure of marijuana, weapons such as shanks and knives, cellular telephones, telephone chargers, SIM cards and cable boxes;
– that inmates are often “tipped off” by prison officials prior to searches
– that since November 2012, there have been 11 stabbing incidents, one resulting in the death of an inmate, with the most recent stabbing incident occurring Feb. 20;
– that a cellular telephone was used by inmates to arrange a murder for hire plot against two correctional officers;
– that cellular telephones were used by inmates to arrange the sale or purchase of contraband in the prison;
– that most inmates – approximately 90 – are in daily possession of some form of prison contraband;
– and that despite the recent arrest of two correctional officers for attempting to smuggle contraband into the prison, contraband continues to be smuggled into Golden Grove.
Sharpe said the execution of the search warrant at Golden Grove is part of an ongoing investigation.
“The smuggling of contraband into Golden Grove is a serious offense that jeopardizes not just the inmates and corrections officers but the entire community,” Sharpe said.
“Shanks, knives and controlled substances pose an obvious danger to other inmates and correctional personnel,” added Guarino. “As the search warrant affidavit shows, cellular telephones in the hands of inmates also pose a serious threat to the security of the prison. They can be used to commit further crimes, run criminal organizations from inside prisons, intimidate witnesses, plot escapes and facilitate drug trafficking inside the prison.”
The investigation leading to Monday’s search warrant was led by the St. Croix DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes officers from the Virgin Islands Police Department. Assisting HIDTA in the search were agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Virgin Islands National Guard.
The agents did not arrest anyone during the search, according to Sharpe’s announcement. The search warrants and a redacted version of the affidavit in support of the search warrants were unsealed Tuesday.
Sharpe said the results of the search would be made public at a later date.