Captain of Vessel is Sentenced to Federal Prison for Smuggling $287,660 in U.S. Currency into St. Thomas Following High-Speed Chase and Apprehension Near Savana Island

St. Thomas, USVI – U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced that Arioc Diaz Melendez, 28, from Puerto Rico, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for concealing $287,660 in U.S. currency while onboard a vessel outfitted for smuggling.

According to court documents, Arioc Diaz Melendez was the captain of a vessel that was traveling without navigation lights at approximately 2:00 A.M. on September 30, 2019 north of Savana Island, U.S. Virgin Islands. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Marine Units identified the vessel and pulled their vessel alongside the 24-foot yola-type vessel that was operating without lights. CBP agents activated their police blue lights and discharged a flare to convince the other vessel to yield.

When CBP agents attempted to initiate a stop, the other vessel did not yield but instead increased speed. The CBP agents shot one round into one of the engines of the other vessel at which point the vessel decreased speed and stopped. Agents observed Arioc Diaz Melendez speaking to the passenger of the vessel, identified as co-defendant Jose C. Diaz Melendez, at which point Jose C. Diaz Melendez threw a duffel bag overboard. The bag was recovered by CBP agents and later found to contain $287,660.00 in U.S. currency and a Glock firearm. After CBP agents disabled one of the boat’s motor, they boarded the vessel, and apprehended the captain, Arioc Diaz Melendez, and the passenger, Jose C. Diaz Melendez, of the vessel.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and (CBP) investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan Albino prosecuted the case.

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