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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, July 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsOfficials Finger Wheelchair Bound Defendant as Drug Kingpin

Officials Finger Wheelchair Bound Defendant as Drug Kingpin

Federal prosecutors have accused a disabled man of being the mastermind behind not one but two major drug trafficking cases uncovered in 2016. Craig Richardson is one of four men indicted May 18 in connection with a Government House bodyguard arrested in September.

Richardson is accused of orchestrating the smuggling of 136 kilograms of cocaine through Cyril King Airport between 2014 and 2016.

The alleged drug trafficking conspiracy began to unravel with the arrest of Neal Chesterfield, a member of the Government House security team. Chesterfield was apprehended by Customs agents at King Airport Sept. 3.

At a detention hearing held Wednesday on St. Thomas, Assistant U.S. Attorney Delia Smith called Richardson a flight risk. Smith also called the defendant a danger to the community because he had demonstrated the ability to move large quantities of drugs by making phone calls.

“There is nothing to stop Richardson from continuing trafficking in drugs unless the government stops him,” the prosecutor said.

Through interviews with law enforcement and though taped surveillance, Richardson had already shown leadership, management and organizing abilities, Smith said. He is so well connected, she said, that hours after a grand jury indicted him and three others, and with an arrest warrant for him placed under seal, he called prosecutors to say he wanted to turn himself in.

To counter the argument, defense attorney Treston Moore pointed to his client, seated in a wheelchair.

“The thought that my client could be a flight risk, given his circumstances, is inconceivable to me,” Moore said.

The second case Richardson is implicated in came to light in July 2016 when 19 defendants were caught in a joint operation involving federal drug agents in the Virgin Islands and Pennsylvania. The purported ringleader in that case, Nilda Morton, was recently sentenced to 97 months in prison.

FBI Special Agent Michael Day testified Wednesday, saying it was apparent to investigators that Morton was working under Richardson’s direction, that Richardson and others paid for her legal defense after she was arrested in July.

Morton was arrested as she returned from London on a trip paid for by Richardson, Day said. The investigator said Morton traveled there to engage a spirit worker to put a curse on the St. Thomas drug case.

“Mr. Richardson was definitely one of the leaders of the organization. There were times when he was making decisions and it became clear at time he was acting on behalf of the group,” Day said.

Day also played recordings of phone conversations made under surveillance with help from a drug informant, Kishaun Carey. In those calls, Richardson could be heard expressing concern when Dellana Magnuson, a courier working for Morton, was arrested at Cyril King Airport on July 1, 2016.

Carey also told the FBI he relied on Richardson to supply his trafficking business with cocaine, Day said. Other information obtained from the informant helped establish the link between Richardson and Chesterfield.

“Once the cocaine was seized from Mr. Chesterfield he was told that the drugs that were taken away were supposed to have come to him, to be sold,” Day said.

Prosecutor Smith told Miller that Richardson also signaled his concerns to her during interviews, following the Magner arrest.

The defendant said St. Thomas was “getting too hot” and he had to leave, she said.

But Moore pointed out that in spite of interview comments and captured conversations, no charges have been brought against his client in the other case.

Miller agreed and set a $75,000 secured bond. Moore said the property offered to cover the bond came from Calford Charleswell, a close friend to Richardson.

‘There is someone who is willing to secure bail with an unencumbered property worth $92,000,” Moore said. What Moore declined to mention was that Charleswell had legal troubles of his own and had recently pleaded guilty in connection with a property tax auction scheme.

Miller ordered Richardson placed on house arrest and appointed a relative and his girlfriend to serve as third party custodians. The magistrate set a further condition that phone call logs be kept on land lines and cellphones belonging to the defendant and his custodians.

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