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Two BVI Men Plead Guilty to Possession of Cocaine on Board a Vessel

Two men from Tortola pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, U.S. Attorney Delia Smith announced Wednesday.

Sean John, 35, and Emmanuel Tolentino-Lebron, 21, both of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

According to court documents, on Jan. 9, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents detected a vessel with bales of suspected cocaine in plain view on the deck of the vessel. The vessel was traveling on the northeast side of St. Croix, heading north towards the British Virgin Islands.

Upon further investigation, agents encountered a 32-foot Manta low-profile vessel with twin 300 HP outboard engines located at approximately 19 nautical miles northeast of St. Croix in international waters in an area known by law enforcement for drug trafficking.

The vessel was dead in the water and displayed no indicia of nationality, flag or registration, and was determined to be a vessel without nationality, thus subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Onboard the vessel, agents discovered four occupants, later identified as Sean John, Emmanuel Tolentino-Lebron, Shannon John, and Augusto Rodriguez-Molina, along with 21 bales wrapped in plastic and encased in rope.

Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory analysis later confirmed that the bales recovered from the vessel contained approximately 567 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. At sentencing, John and Tolentino-Lebron face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. A federal judge will determine their sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.

This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigation, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine and Drug Enforcement Administration and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Melissa P. Ortiz.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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