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Press Release

Puerto Man Apprehended on a Vessel with $ 316,930 in U.S. Currency Pleads Guilty to Making a False Statement to Federal Agents; Vessel and U.S. Currency are Forfeited

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Virgin Islands

ST. Thomas, USVI – U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert of the District of the Virgin Islands announced that a Puerto Rico man pleaded guilty in federal court today to making a false statement to agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an executive agency of the United States.

According to court documents, Blas Sebastian Panzardi Davila, age 38, was the sole individual operating a vessel traveling from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas. Onboard defendant’s vessel was a cooler containing $316,930 in United States currency. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction (CBP-MI) officers questioned defendant regarding the contents of the cooler, and defendant responded that he did not know what the cooler contained. CBP-MI officers opened the cooler and discovered the currency, and defendant denied ownership.

HSI agents arrived and questioned defendant regarding ownership of the currency. Defendant then claimed the currency belonged to him. Asked how he earned the money, defendant stated that he earned it while giving tourists diving tours in Puerto Rico. Asked how much currency was in the cooler, defendant said that it was approximately $100,000. According to court documents, defendant made his false statements to agents of HSI, an agency of the Executive Branch of the government of the United States.

The $ 316, 930 in U.S. currency and the vessel operated by Davila were administratively forfeited by HSI.

Davila is scheduled to be sentenced on January 27, 2022 and faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

This case was investigated by Customs Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter.

This prosecution 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.

Updated November 15, 2021