Sept. 8, 2004 — Eight airport workers and a West Indian Co. employee pleaded innocent in federal court Wednesday to charges they smuggled cocaine and heroin to the U.S. mainland.
Nine men, some of whom appeared in the St. Thomas court with chains around their ankles, were arrested and indicted last week. All but one defendant, Bernard Gabriel, 39, who was granted more time to meet with his attorney, entered innocent pleas before Judge Geoffrey W. Barnard.
Six of the men, most of whom are baggage handlers at the Cyril E. King Airport, had bail set at $10,000. To be released they must post 10 percent. They are Dion Brookes, 37; Danny Rawlins, 25; Robert Rawlins, 25; Meleek Sylvester, 32; Brent Donovan, 30; and Stefon Wilson, 39. Brookes is reported to be a manager for Air Sunshine.
Barnard set bail for Marvin Dorival, 39, at $25,000 and Clyde Edinborough Jr., 35, at $50,000. Prosecutors alleged that Dorival and Edinborough were the kingpins of the five-year smuggling operation.
The indictment said the suspects would usually place false tags, or tags removed from legitimate luggage, on suitcases containing drugs and load them onto commercial airliners.
One of those charged worked at the West Indian Co., which is not affiliated with the airport. Prosecutors said he supplied the drugs to the others for shipment to the U.S. mainland.
U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Jenkins said the arrests came after a yearlong investigation led by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Jenkins said most of the drugs ended up in New Jersey, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania, but authorities refused to say how much was smuggled or what airlines were involved. The charges carry prison sentences between 10 years to life and fines of up to $5 million.
A trial date has not yet been set.
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