Four Dominican Republic nationals charged with illegally entering the territory pleaded not guilty on May 23 in Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrate Tamia Richards read the charges against Gerson Vidal Bonilla Nunez, Jose Castillo, Ariel Peres, and Francisco Javier Troncoso Pimentel.

Crown Counsel Andrea Johnson told the judge that police officers were patrolling near Frenchmans Cay around the evening of April 11 when they observed a boat with a person aboard who appeared to be attempting to avoid detection.

Upon further inspection, the officers encountered a vehicle near the dock entrance with five occupants, according to the prosecutor.

They included a driver with a Virgin Islands driver’s licence and the four defendants, she said. When officers asked them to produce their passports, the men acquiesced, but those passports lacked VI entry stamps, according to the prosecutor.

“There was no indication of how they arrived in the territory and their permitted length of stay,” she added.

The defendants reportedly told officers they arrived through Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, according to Ms. Johnson.

Police then contacted immigration officers, who arrived and detained the defendants at the Hotel Castle Maria, the prosecutor said.

She added that inquiries were made with the Civil Registry the following week, and there was no indication that any of the four men had been issued visas to travel. Police interviewed the defendants on May 18, and they were formally charged, she said.

The matter is scheduled to go to trial on July 11, and Ms. Richards said the court would work to process the case quickly considering that the defendants were ineligible to apply for bail.