APR 08 (ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Island) –A federal search warrant authorizing federal agents to search the Golden Grove Adult Correctional and Detention Facility (Golden Grove) in St. Croix for illegal contraband was executed last night, announced Ronald W. Sharpe, United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands, Vito S. Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Caribbean Division and Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Juan Field Division. The search warrant authorized federal agents to search inmates’ cells and certain common areas such as the prison yard and workshop areas for illegal contraband, weapons, controlled substances and cellular telephones. Under federal and territorial law, it is illegal for inmates to possess such items. Federal inmates awaiting trial and those already sentenced and pending transfer to a federal correctional facility are held at Golden Grove.
DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge Vito Salvatore Guarino (center), talking to one of his agents, leads the search warrant operation.
The search is part of a multi-year federal investigation involving the smuggling of illegal contraband into Golden Grove by Correctional Officers (COs), inmates, and others. According to the affidavit in support of the warrant, COs have been directly involved in the smuggling of contraband into the prison and are often paid by inmates to do so. The affidavit also states that numerous inmates regularly possess illegal contraband. The affidavit also details the methods used by COs and inmates to smuggle and hide contraband inside the prison. These methods include the use of cellular phones by inmates to arrange for delivery of contraband to COs, the smuggling of contraband into the prison by COs using their personal belongings, and the concealment of contraband by inmates in their cells and other places in the prison. The affidavit also reveals the following:
• Between February 2012 and February 2014, 51 of approximately 350 prison cells at Golden Grove have been searched by the Bureau of Corrections. These searches have resulted in the seizure of marijuana, weapons such as shanks and knives, cellular telephones, telephone chargers, SIM cards (subscriber module), and cable boxes.
• Inmates are often “tipped off” by prison officials prior to searches.
• Since November 2012, there have been 11 stabbing incidents (one resulting in the death of an inmate) with the most recent stabbing incident occurring February 20, 2014.
• A cellular telephone was used by inmates to arrange a murder for hire plot against two COs.
• Cellular telephones were used by inmates to arrange the sale or purchase of contraband in the prison.
• Most inmates (approximately 90%) are in daily possession of some form of prison contraband.
• Despite the recent arrest of two COs for attempting to smuggle contraband into the prison, contraband continues to be smuggled into Golden Grove.
Golden Grove Correctional Facility in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.
U.S. Attorney Sharpe said a search warrant is an investigative tool used to collect evidence of criminal offenses, and that the execution of the warrant at Golden Grove is part of an ongoing investigation. “The smuggling of contraband into Golden Grove is a serious offense that jeopardizes not just the inmates and corrections officers but the entire community,” said U.S. Attorney Sharpe.
“Shanks, knives, and controlled substances pose an obvious danger to other inmates and correctional personnel,” stated Special Agent in Charge Guarino. “As the search warrant affidavit shows, cellular telephones in the hands of inmates also pose a serious threat to the security of the prison. They can be used to commit further crimes, run criminal organizations from inside prisons, intimidate witnesses, plot escapes, and facilitate drug trafficking inside the prison.”
The investigation leading to today’s search warrant was led by the St. Croix DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, which includes officers from the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD), with assistance from the FBI. Assisting HIDTA in today’s search were agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, VIPD, and the Virgin Islands National Guard.
There were no arrests in connection with today’s search. The search warrants and a redacted version of the affidavit in support of the search warrants have been unsealed today. The results of the search will be made public at a later date.
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