Aubrey Daniels, a 59-year-old belonger who was arrested Monday following an anonymous tip and charged with illegal entry and providing false information to the police, pleaded not guilty to all charges on Thursday.
Mr. Daniels, who was born in the United States Virgin Islands, was remanded for a two-week period, after which he will be tested for Covid-19 and the court will hear his application for bail, Magistrate Christilyn Benjamin ruled at the Thursday hearing, which was broadcast on Zoom.
During the hearing, Crown Counsel Annjel Flax Solomon outlined the allegations against Mr. Daniels, who resides in Duffs Bottom and has 12 children.
On July 15, he was a passenger aboard the MV Dream Lover, a vessel with Ocean Dreams Water Taxi and Charter Service Company that had received permission from the Ministry of Health and Social Development to transport the accused and two other passengers to the USVI, Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
The boat’s July 18 return manifest shows that only the two Ocean Dreams crewmembers returned to the territory aboard the boat, according to the prosecutor.
Then, on Aug. 31, a customs officer received an anonymous tip that an “individual boarding the [Jost Van Dyke] ferry to Tortola had entered the territory illegally by way of a go-fast boat coming from the westerly direction of St. Thomas or St. John,” Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
The tipster told the officer that they observed a Rastafarian male dressed in a black shirt and brownish pants disembark a black powerboat by Coco Loco bar and run in the direction of One Love bar, the prosecutor alleged.
“The male was observed boarding the ferry shortly thereafter,” the prosecutor read.
The customs officer then alerted the police and boarded the ferry, sitting directly across from the accused, Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
Upon arriving at the West End ferry terminal, Mr. Daniels was intercepted by three police officers, and when asked his name identified himself as Aubrey Smith of Duffs Bottom, Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
When the officers asked if he had an ID, he replied in the negative, but when the officers searched his wallet they found his VI driver’s licence identifying him as Aubrey Daniels, the prosecutor said.
Asked how he had arrived in the territory, Mr. Daniels told the officers that he returned aboard a different vessel than the ferry, according to the Crown counsel.
While being arrested, Mr. Daniels then stated that “he was in the territory the whole time,” Ms. Flax Solomon said.
Police officers transported Mr. Daniels to the Road Town Police Station, where they conducted an audio and video interview, Ms. Flax Solomon said.
During the interview he initially denied leaving the territory during the Covid-19 pandemic, but when shown a copy of the MV Dream Lover’s July 15 manifest, he said that he had left for St. Thomas but returned to the territory that same day, Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
When the officers produced a copy of the vessel’s July 18 return manifest, the accused then told them that he had stayed in quarantine in St. Thomas for 14 days, and returned to the territory just before Jost Van Dyke was locked down, the prosecutor said.
“He further confirmed that he did not make contact with Customs or Immigration departments,” Ms. Flax Solomon read from the list of allegations.
New Horizon Ferry confirmed to police that Mr. Daniels did not appear on any of its manifests for trips to or from Tortola and Jost Van Dyke during the period between July 18 and Aug. 31, Ms. Flax Solomon alleged.
“The accused was formally charged, and he replied, ‘I come to Jost Van Dyke from St. Thomas; I didn’t come here illegally; I just didn’t check into quarantine,’” the prosecutor read.
After the Crown counsel read the allegations, Ms. Benjamin explained the Crown’s formal complaints.
Mr. Daniels pleaded not guilty to the charges of illegal entry and of giving false information to a police officer.
Mr. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Maduro, asked for bail, telling the court that Mr. Daniels has 12 children to care for, one of whom is a toddler, as well as steady work at the Public Works Department, and poses very little flight risk.
Due to the risk of Mr. Daniels potentially spreading the coronavirus, however, Ms. Benjamin ruled that he be remanded for a two-week period before being tested, at which point the court will formally hear his application for bail.
She added that “arrangements will have to be made” regarding the location of Mr. Daniels’ two-week confinement.