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HomeNewsPolice & CourtsDistrict Court: Three Cases Yield a Guilty Plea, Two Sentences

District Court: Three Cases Yield a Guilty Plea, Two Sentences

STX Man Pleads Guilty to Firearm and Carjacking Offenses
Chriss Cepeda, 24 of St. Croix, pled guilty Friday, Nov. 20, in District Court to one count of using a firearm during a violent crime, and one count of carjacking, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced.

The firearm offense carries a mandatory minimum of seven years imprisonment, a maximum fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release up to 5 years. The carjacking offense carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years, a maximum fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release up to 5 years. Sentencing is set for March 24.

According to court documents, in the early morning hours of Sept. 10, 2017, the defendant, along with two co-defendants, broke into the home of Stephen O’Dea and Kathryn Duncan, while brandishing a firearm. The defendants physically assaulted O’Dea and threatened to kill the couple while demanding money. The defendants forced the couple at gunpoint into the rear seat of O’Dea’s Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck and drove to the location where O’Dea had left his wallet. After obtaining the wallet, the defendants fled in the pick-up truck and Mr. O’Dea’s Jeep Wrangler. In addition to the vehicles, defendants stole $200 in currency, two iPhones valued at $600 each, and an iPad valued at $200.

The V.I. Police Department and FBI investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston.

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STT Man Gets Federal Prison Sentence
Jabari Hodge, 30 of St. Thomas, was sentenced on Friday to 71 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm, followed by a three year term of supervised release, according to U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert.

According to court documents, at about 1:10 a.m. on Oct. 6, 2019, VIPD officers approached the defendant, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked vehicle, with the driver’s side door open, in the parking lot of a shopping center in the Red Hook area. Upon approaching, one of the officers noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The officer saw what appeared to be a marijuana on the floorboard near the defendant’s feet. Another VIPD officer noticed a partially-opened bag with what appeared to be a jar containing marijuana inside.

The officers informed the defendant that they were going to search the vehicle, at which point the defendant stated, “Just take the weed and let me go.” The officers proceeded to search the vehicle and located a fully loaded, silver and black 9mm Kel-Tec handgun with one round in the chamber and seven rounds in the magazine.

Prior to his Oct. 6, 2019, apprehension, the defendant had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year and under federal law was not authorized to possess a firearm.

This case was investigated by the VIPD in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Juan A. Albino.

Colombians Sentenced for Smuggling
Colombia natives Freddy Montano Paz, 30, and Mariano Abregon, 33, were both sentenced Thursday by District Judge Robert A. Molloy to 60 months of incarceration on their convictions on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,535 kilograms, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced. Judge Molloy also sentenced Montano Paz and Abregon to five years of supervised release, removal from the United States after serving their sentences, and $100 each for special assessments.

According to court records, on May 10, 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton sighted a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel in international waters approximately 250 nautical miles northwest of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. The semi-submersible was navigating on a westerly course in a known drug smuggling area, and displayed no indicia of nationality nor markings, or navigation lights. More than 80 percent of the vessel was under the waterline. As they approached the semi-submersible, U.S. Coast Guard crew members observed its occupants throwing objects overboard. Four individuals onboard the semi-submersible were later identified as Freddy Montano Paz, Mariano Abregon, Calixto Tumbaco, and Hector Hernandez Saucedo. After recovering the jettisoned packages, U.S. Coast Guard crew members conducted an inspection of the vessel and recovered 40 bales which contained 1,535 kilograms of cocaine. Both Montano Paz and Abregon pleaded guilty to the conspiracy.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and DEA, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Delia L. Smith.

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