Jose Carlos Diaz Melendez, a resident of Puerto Rico, entered a guilty plea before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller in the District Court on St. Thomas, admitting to concealing $287,660 in U.S. currency while onboard a vessel outfitted for smuggling, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced in a news release issued on Thursday.
According to court documents, at about 2 a.m. Sept. 30 agents of the Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit identified a boat traveling without navigational lights north of Savana Island. CBP agents pulled their vessel alongside the 24-foot yola-type vessel that was operating without lights. CBP agents activated their police blue lights and discharged a flare, in an effort to convince the other vessel to yield. When CBP agents attempted to initiate a stop, the other vessel did not yield, but instead increased speed. CBP agents then shot one round into one of the engines of the other vessel at which point the vessel decreased speed and stopped.
Records say the passenger threw a duffel bag overboard. The bag was recovered by CBP agents and later found to contain $287,660 in U.S. currency and a Glock firearm.
CBP agents boarded the vessel and apprehended the captain, who was later identified as Arioc Diaz Melendez, and the passenger, later identified as Jose Carlos Diaz Melendez. After pleading guilty, Jose was remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The captain of the vessel, Arioc, pled guilty on Nov. 30 and is awaiting sentencing.
This case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan Albino.