An American drug dealer filed paperwork with the Unity Labour Party government in 2011 in an effort to create a cover as to why he had sent so much money to St. Vincent.
The man, Lorenzo Solomon, 28, of Baltimore, Maryland, was this week jailed in the United States for 15 years for conspiring to import cocaine from this country and distribute it in Maryland.
The jail term is to be followed by four years of supervised release.
As part of the conspiracy, more than 17 individuals sent US$117,270 from the United States to St. Vincent between April and November 2010.
Law enforcement officials in the United States intercepted package of cocaine-filled flip flops, which were part of the drug ring.
A release from United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland siad U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus enhanced Solomon’s sentence upon finding that he was a leader of the conspiracy and that he obstructed justice by attempting to intimidate witnesses to prevent them from testifying truthfully against him at trial.
During the four-day trial, the court heard that Solomon served as the leader and organizer of a conspiracy involving Ronnie George and others to import cocaine from St. Vincent and distribute that cocaine in Maryland.
Between April and December 2010, Solomon arranged with co-conspirators in St. Vincent to send him packages containing up to a kilogramme of cocaine at a time hidden in the soles of flip-flop style slippers, both to his own address and to the address of others.
Once Solomon retrieved the packages, he would remove the cocaine and sell the cocaine to others in Maryland who would then distribute it, the release said.
To pay for the drugs, witnesses testified that Solomon arranged to have multiple friends and family members send large amounts of cash via Western Union and Moneygram, most frequently in US$2,000 increments, which Solomon provided them.
Solomon recruited co-conspirator Ronnie George to send money on his behalf. In addition to providing him cash to send to St. Vincent, Solomon provided George several hundred dollars in cash or merchandise as compensation for sending money. Solomon suggested that George recruit friends to send money to reduce the chance of the scheme being detected, which he did.
Solomon also recruited his sister, girlfriend and others to send money to St. Vincent for him. According to court documents, more than 17 individuals sent a total of $117,270 from the U.S. to St. Vincent between April and November 2010.
According to trial testimony, on November 26, 2010, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers intercepted package of cocaine-filled flip flops intended for Solomon, but addressed to a friend. CBP transferred the package to the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force to attempt a controlled delivery of the package to the Takoma Park address listed on the package.
After unsuccessfully attempting to deliver the package on Dec. 6, 2010, law enforcement left a note on the door advising of the attempted delivery of the package and providing a telephone number to call to arrange delivery.
Witness testimony showed that Solomon was advised of the arrival of the package and at Solomon’s direction, delivery of the package was arranged for the next day. After the package was delivered, phone records show that a call was placed to Solomon to let him know of the delivery. A short time later, HSI agents executed a search warrant, recovering the drugs. Ronnie George was also arrested after he arrived to pick up the package for Solomon.
Solomon left the area, eventually traveling to St. Vincent, where, in February 2011, he filed paperwork with the St. Vincent government to form a business, apparently in an effort to create a cover story as to why he had sent so much money to St. Vincent. Solomon returned to the United States in March 2011. On April 6, 2011, George and Solomon were indicted on drug conspiracy charges. George was arrested and pleaded guilty, but Solomon was not located until after George’s sentencing in March 2012.
According to witness testimony, Solomon requested that a witness change her story so as not to implicate Solomon in the drug conspiracy, but the witness refused. Evidence was also presented that during preparation for trial several witnesses contacted law enforcement to advise that they or members of their family were being threatened to prevent the witness’ testimony against Solomon. As a result of these threats, Judge Titus ordered that Solomon be taken into custody on the first day of his trial, March 12, 2013, and he has been detained since that time.
Ronnie George, age 27, of Owings Mills, Maryland pleaded guilty to his participation in the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.