SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO— Joaquin Miguel Saint-Hilarie and Gabriel De La Cruz-Montero were were taken into custody by the FBI today and charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a narcotic controlled substance.
A federal complaint states that on November 26, 2013 in the late evening hours, while on routine patrol, a Customs and Border Protection Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) detected a suspected target of interest (hereinafter, suspect vessel), described as 28-foot, white, Eduardona vessel with two outboard engines, traveling without navigation lights, approximately 15 nautical miles off the coast of Ponce, Puerto Rico in a known drug trafficking area, traveling northbound at 10 knots towards the coast of Puerto Rico.
The CAMB aircraft maintained constant aerial surveillance and alerted the local CBP Ponce Office so that a CBP Marine unit could respond. At 10:25 p.m. on November 26, 2013, at approximately eight nautical miles off the coast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, a local CBP Mike Unit responded and made way towards the location of the suspect vessel. During the approach of the CBP Mike Unit, Sensor Operators onboard the MPA observed the occupants onboard the suspect vessel jettison several large packages overboard.
Upon approach, the CBP Mike approached the vessel covertly until they arrived approximately 20 yards from the vessel where they then energized their blue lights, turned on the siren, illuminated the suspect vessel with the spotlight and ordered the vessel to heave to. During the chase, officers onboard the Mike unit observe one individual roll over the gunwale, or the side of the vessel, into the water and observe the other two occupants jettison items into the water. Investigation later revealed that the individual that absconded was Gabriel De La Cruz-Montero, “El Primo.” The suspect vessel sped up and took a shallow right turn; at this time, the officers onboard the Mike Unit employed Small Boat Interdiction Program steps, which included flare warning shots across the bow. The suspect vessel failed to heave to after the warning shots, so the officers employed four to five rounds of disabling fire into the engine, causing the vessel to become dead in the water.
The officers onboard the CBP Mike Unit conducted a document and safety search of the vessel and observed 11 large black external portable gas tanks along with 10 large rectangular black plastic sacks secured together with yellow nylon rope located in the bow of the vessel, each containing 30 bricks of a white powdery substance which field tested positive for the presence of cocaine and which weighed in excess of five kilograms. The 10 packages of contraband and two remaining suspects were transferred onboard the Mike Unit and then transported along with the suspect vessel to the Ponce Port of Entry, the first point of entry for the suspects following the commission of the narcotics offense.
The two individuals onboard the suspect vessel identified Gabriel De La Cruz-Montero, “El Primo” as the third occupant of the vessel that absconded and who was later recovered by Joaquin Miguel Saint-Hilaire, aka “El Sobrino.” Further investigation revealed that Saint-Hilaire was waiting at a beach nearby in Ponce, along with eight other unknown subjects for purposes of offloading the narcotics from the suspect vessel into various vehicles, one of which was a black sequoia that belonged to Saint-Hilaire.
If convicted, the defendant faces up to a maximum of life in prison.