St. Thomas, USVI – United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced today that Joan Morales Nolasco, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller in the District Court and entered a guilty plea to the charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine (21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)). He faces up to life in federal prison. The sentencing date will be set by the Court.
According to Court documents, on September 25, 2019, a co-defendant drove Morales Nolasco, another co-defendant and two other individuals to Haulover Bay in St. John to conduct an exchange of two duffel bags that contained a large amount of U.S. currency and rifle type firearm for 100 kilograms of cocaine. The driver parked near a trail that leads to Haulover Bay. Morales Nolasco and his co-defendant exited the Jeep. Each of them carried a firearm. They both walked to a trail that leads to Haulover Bay. While on the trail, Morales Nolasco heard someone yelling at them in the English language. His co-defendant turned towards the direction of the voice and discharged his firearm. Morales Nolasco dropped his weapon and ran away on foot. He fled to the Dominican Republic and was subsequently extradited by federal authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Juan Albino and is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.