A man from the Dominican Republic pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, United States Attorney Delia L. Smith announced Friday.
Augusto Rodriguez-Molina, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday 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 Rodriguez-Molina, Shannon John, Sean John and Emmanuel Tolentino-Lebron, 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.
Defendants Sean John, Shannon John and Tolentino-Lebron all pleaded guilty to the cocaine conspiracy charge. At sentencing, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.