ST.CROIX OCDETF OPERATION TIN FOIL
SAINT CROIX, United States Virgin Islands - United States Attorney David M. Nissman, District of the Virgin Islands, Jerome M. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the Caribbean, and Joseph Louis, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, jointly announced today the unsealing of an indictment, returned yesterday by a federal grand jury on St. Croix, charging Esbond DeGrasse, a former St. Croix Narcotics Strike Force Agent, and current St. Croix Narcotics Strike Force Agents George Osborne, and Jay Watson with a series of federal offenses including Conspiracy to Commit and Extortion and Robbery Under Color of Law, Conspiracy to Possess and Possession With Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, Carrying a Firearm During and In Relation to a Drug Trafficking Offense and the territorial offenses of Racketeering and Destruction of Property. Also charged in one count of the indictment with Possession With Intent to Distribute Cocaine is St. Croix Bureau of Corrections Officer Antonio Petersen.
The indictment alleges that from at least January 1, 1996, to December 31, 2000, the defendants, among other things, unlawfully used their positions as law enforcement officers and Narcotics Strike Force Agents for profit and gain by obtaining money from drug dealers, or individuals whom the defendants understood to be drug dealers, by depriving them of their civil rights, robbing them of their drug inventory and money, extorting money and drugs from them to avoid prosecution, using drug dealers to sell unlawfully obtained drugs, and misusing and destroying government property to further their illegal activities.
U.S. Attorney Nissman stated that this is an "important case because of the presense of public corruption in our island community". He further stated that "the public has made complaints about corruption in the Narcotics Strike Force for many years and many of those complaints have been acted upon." DEA Special Agent in Charge Harris praised the excellent investigative work, conducted under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, of the DEA St. Croix Resident Office. Mr. Harris, whom also chairs the Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Board, stated that "the DEA is committed to the safety of the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will make every effort to combat the violence and corruption associated with drug trafficking".
Conspiracy to Commit and Extortion and Robbery Under the Color of Law carries a maximum penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.00. Conspiracy to Posses and Possession With the Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances carries a mandatory minimum of five (5) years and a maximum penalty of forty (40) years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,000,000.00. Carrying a Firearm During and In Relation to a Drug Trafficking Offense carries a mandatory 5-year term of imprisonment. Racketeering under the Virgin Island Law carries a maximum of fifteen (15) years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500,000.00. Destruction of Property carries a maximum term of one (1) year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $200.00.
U.S. Attorney Nissman stated that this case was initiated through a request from the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) and the investigation was conducted trough the join efforts of the FBI, the DEA, the VIPD and the HIDTA Task Force. He commended all the agencies on their hard work and further stated that this case has once again demonstrated that local and federal agencies can work cooperatively and effectively, taking advantages of programs such as the OCDETF, to serve the best interest of justice. The investigation was coordinated and conducted under the OCDETF program under OPERATION TIN FOIL.
U.S. Attorney Nissman issued a reminder that all the defendants charged, in this or any criminal case, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court. He concluded by stating that all residents of the Virgin Islands deserve corrupt free governmental institution. U.S. Attorney Nissman encouraged residents with specific information about public corruption in any governmental institution and drug tracking activities to contact the FBI and the DEA, respectively.
For more information contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Azekah Jennings, District of the Virgin Islands, Division of St. Croix, at 340-773-3920.