A former Tortola resident was one of five men arrested near Savana Island about eight miles of St. Thomas, and charged with possession with intent to distribute 433 pounds of cocaine, according to an affidavit filed in a United States district court. (Photo: GOOGLE MAPS)

At about 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, five men, including a Dominican Republic national who had recently travelled from Tortola to St. Thomas, were arrested aboard a vessel in the United States Virgin Islands and charged with possession with intent to distribute 433 pounds of cocaine, according to an affidavit filed in the US District Court of St. Thomas and St. John by a special agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.

US Customs and Border Protection agents first noticed the boat as it was travelling away from St. Thomas and towards Puerto Rico, and they attempted to stop it because it was not using any visible lights, according to the affidavit.

Their initial attempt was not successful, however, and the agents pursued the vessel until they stopped it about a mile southwest of Savana Island, which is about eight miles west of St. Thomas.

They detained the five people on board, the affidavit states: Ruben Reyes, who said he recently travelled from this territory; Jorge Romero-Amaro, who identified himself as the owner of the boat; Giovanni Graciani; Hector Rivera; and Pedro Luis Sayan Villanueva.

During the pursuit, other CBP agents observed people aboard the fleeing vessel throw black objects into the water, marking where they landed.

Personnel with the US Coast Guard recovered these objects, which turned out to be seven black duffel bags containing 197 bricks of cocaine weighing 433 pounds, according to the affidavit.

Trip from Tortola

After their detainment, all five men were read their Miranda rights affording them the right to remain silent, but Mr. Reyes waived his to tell the agents that he had travelled illegally from Tortola to St. Thomas by boat, according to the affidavit.

The document states that Mr. Reyes told the authorities that he had paid a boat captain $500 to take him from Tortola to St. John, and he was then transported to St. Thomas.

On the night of his arrest, when Mr. Reyes was told he would be transported to Puerto Rico, he was taken to a boat waiting on a beach on St. Thomas where four other men were already on board, the affidavit states, citing Mr. Reyes’ account.

Mr. Reyes further told the agents that he did not see anything loaded onto the boat or know that the bags were already on board when he arrived, according to the affidavit.

All Mr. Reyes knew, according to the affidavit, was that the boat was going to take him to Puerto Rico, where he would pay the captain $1,000.

If he had known the bags of cocaine were on board, he wouldn’t have come on board, he said, according to the affidavit.