A man from the Dominican Republic involved in a shootout with U.S. officials on St. John has been sentenced to 141 months in prison, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith announced Thursday.
Rammer Guerrero Morales, 31, who pleaded guilty in March to possession and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and assaulting a federal officer, was sentenced by Chief District Court Judge Robert Molloy.
According to court documents and evidence presented at co-defendant Samuel Pena Columna’s trial, on Sept. 25, 2019, Guerrero Morales was involved in a shootout with several U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Interdiction agents.
Guerrero Morales and three co-conspirators were driven that night by Pena Columna to Haulover Bay, a well-known drug smuggling area on the east end of St. John, with more than $1.1 million to conduct a 100-kilogram cocaine transaction with traffickers from Tortola, BVI, according to the court documents.
After arriving at the trail in Haulover Bay, Guerrero Morales and co-defendant Joan Morales Nolasco headed down a trail. Guerrero Morales was armed with a handgun, and Morales Nolasco was armed with a long gun, court documents said. After confirming that the trail was clear, Guerrero Morales and Morales Nolasco had planned to signal for the other co-conspirators waiting in Pena Columna’s vehicle to bring the $1.1 million in cash down the trail to complete the drug transaction while Pena Columna waited at the top of the trail in his vehicle, they said.
Trial evidence further revealed that, on their way down to the trail, Guerrero Morales and Morales Nolasco encountered two CBP agents who immediately announced themselves as police. The agents were fired upon by Guerrero Morales, and a shootout ensued leaving one agent with gunshot wounds to his shoulder and leg, according to the court documents. The agents returned fire, hitting Guerrero Morales in his leg which was later amputated due to the severity of his injury.
During the shootout, Morales Nolasco fled the scene and ultimately made his way to the Dominican Republic. He was later extradited back to the territory for prosecution. Pena Columna and the two remaining co-conspirators also fled the scene. Pena Columna, a paid confidential source conducting his own drug trafficking organization, later told federal agents that he took the two men, along with the $1.1 million, near the Cruz Bay area where they escaped.
Pena Columna was convicted in September and his sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 19. Morales Nolasco pleaded guilty in March and on Dec. 6 he was sentenced to 101 months of incarceration for his role in the drug trafficking conspiracy.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the Virgin Islands Police Department investigated this case, and Assistant United States Attorneys Meredith Edwards and Kyle Payne prosecuted the case.
This effort was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s operation, Smith said. It identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach, she said. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.