- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Federal grand jury indictments yesterday targeted 19 members of a suspected international drug smuggling operation in St. Croix, as part of a three-year undercover investigation that has already resulted in 25 arrests and the seizure of hundreds of pounds of illicit drugs.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Rusty Payne said the arrests were part of “Operation Trebuchet,” which targeted drug smugglers in St. Croix who obtained cocaine from St. Maarten and marijuana from Texas and Arizona.

Zacheaus Blake, 32, Blaine Claxton, 25, and Kalif Berry, 28, all of St. Croix, were identified as the primary targets of the investigation. Mr. Payne said Mr. Blake’s mother, Shelia Blake, 57, and his sister, Karen Blake, 35, also of St. Croix, were also indicted in the case.

Mr. Payne said U.S. postal workers assisted the suspected gang members with the shipments of marijuana through the U.S. mail.

He said the undercover investigation began in July 2003 and during that time, the DEA-led High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force has executed 23 search warrants on St. Croix and other locations. Mr. Payne said the task force seized crack cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride and marijuana, along with six weapons, several bulletproof vests, ski masks and $60,000 in U.S. currency.

He said the task force also seized several vehicles and two boats during the course of Operation Trebuchet, named after a medieval catapult for hurling heavy stones.

Also named in the indictments was U.S. Virgin Islands Deputy Territorial Marshal Morel Sackey, 41, accused of using communications facilities in furtherance of drug trafficking. Mr. Payne said Mr. Sackey is suspected of providing information that aided the effectiveness of the drug trafficking organization.

Other Virgin Islands residents indicted were St. Clair Liburd, 20; Randy Simon, 21; Delma Matthew, 25; Akilia Roberts, 27; Shermaine Peters, 38; Karl Christian, 24; Adilia Magrass, 25; and Akeem Bloodmar, 21, all from St. Croix, and Shusta Gumbs, 28, a resident of St. Thomas. Richard Newman, 34, of Houston, and Germain Hermas, 30, of Phoenix, also were indicted. Two additional targets were not named in the indictments.

Mr. Payne said the investigation was a joint effort by members of the DEA and the Virgin Islands Police Department, who make up the St. Croix task force. Other agencies that assisted, he said, were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Blue Lightning Marine Unit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI.

DEA Agent Gene Hawk, who heads the agency’s St. Croix field office, said the ability of federal and local law-enforcement agencies to work together is the basis for success in Operation Trebuchet, and that “the community is the chief benefactor of our efforts.”

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