Tambu Frett was sentenced Friday to spend two years in prison and pay fines totaling $14,000 for charges of illegal entry, breach of curfew, and smuggling, after he was arrested on April 3 while trying to transport United States Virgin Islands resident Bryan Boland into this territory during the recent round-the-clock curfew.
For smuggling, Mr. Frett was sentenced to 24 months in prison and fined $12,000; for illegal entry, nine months and $1,000; and for breach of curfew 50 days and $1,000, Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards ruled Friday.
The prison sentences will all run concurrently, Ms. Richards said, adding, “The court does not consider any exceptional circumstances to justify the suspension … of the sentences.”
If Mr. Frett does not pay the fines for each of his charges, she ordered, he will serve an additional six-month consecutive prison sentence for the smuggling charge; a two-month consecutive sentence for the illegal entry charge; and a two-month consecutive sentence for his curfew breach.
According to Ms. Richards, evidence presented by the Crown — including WhatsApp messages and transcripts of voice recordings reviewed during a special proceeding called a Newton hearing — implicated Mr. Frett as part of a human-smuggling organisation.
As “the defendant opted not to testify on his own behalf, the evidence of the Crown is therefore uncontroverted,” Ms. Richards said, adding that Leroy Jones, Mr. Frett’s lawyer, asked for leniency, citing as mitigating factors Mr. Frett’s four children, remorse for his wrongdoing, and previously clean criminal record.
But after considering the information presented by the prosecution during the Newton hearing — which was held to settle factual discrepancies between the Crown and the defence — Ms. Richards said, “I accept that the defendant was part of a smuggling operation that moved persons from the US to the British Virgin Islands.”
She added, “I cannot accept the submission that the defendant did the action on the 3rd of April … out of the goodness of his heart, and not for reward.”
Before handing down her sentence, Ms. Richards read aloud a number of conversations between Mr. Frett and his alleged associates in the smuggling enterprise that a police sergeant had compiled and presented to the court during the Newton hearing.
In one such conversation that took place on the morning of Feb. 15, one of Mr. Frett’s alleged associates reached out to the accused to tell him that “he is ready,” Ms. Richards said.
Mr. Frett then replied, telling his associate to call another man, who the Crown has identified as a leader of the smuggling ring.
“Call [phone number redacted] … Tell him you need a ride,” said Mr. Frett, according to Ms. Richards.
The associate then responded, “Okay,” the magistrate said.
The same associate reached out to Mr. Frett the following day, saying that they should “linkup,” according to Ms. Richards.
“With your guy: Be there soon,” the associate stated, adding, “But I want $800; I’m short $200 for the ride.” According to documents read off by Ms. Richards, Mr. Frett replied, “He’s going to work with you for that, I sure,” adding, “He’s going to carry you to St. John and you [have to catch] the ferry. … So see if you can get your uncle to pick you up, ’cause we ain’t driving.”
In another communication between Mr. Frett and an alleged associate, the associate complained that he was still owed $300, Ms. Richards said.
She added, “All these conversations … absent an innocent explanation by the defendant” suggest that Mr. Frett was engaged in “smuggling persons between the US and the BVI.”
Messrs. Frett and Boland were arrested April 3. On that day, police saw a rubber dinghy head towards USVI waters and disappear behind St. John, according to an April 7 memorandum released by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Later that afternoon, inspectors from the Marine Unit waited in the channel between Flanagan Island and St. John, where they encountered Mr. Frett returning with Mr. Boland as a passenger, according to the memo.
Police flashed their sirens, signaling the boat to stop. But Mr. Frett, who captained the dinghy, allegedly sped away. Police, however, intercepted the vessel and arrested the two men off Norman Island, the memo states.
Police found more than $5,000 on Mr. Frett’s person and more than $6,000 on Mr. Boland, Ms. Richards said on Friday while recounting the case.
During an April 4 interview with police, Mr. Frett told the officers he met Mr. Boland while he was “limin’” on Jost Van Dyke, and agreed to give him a ride to Tortola, Ms. Richards said.
Mr. Jones has repeatedly argued that his client transported Mr. Boland as an act of kindness.
“What my instructions are, my lady: He did it as gift; he did not get any financial gain; he did not make any money from it,” Mr. Jones told the magistrate during the May 7 Newton hearing.