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Press Release

Jamaican National Pleads Guilty To Airport Drug Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winston Sherif Richards, 40, a citizen of Jamaica, appeared in federal court and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer presided over today’s plea hearing. 

Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas and Patti Fitzpatrick, Port Director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Area in Charlotte join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement. This investigation is a direct result of HSI’s Airport Drug Interdiction initiative.

According to filed plea documents and today’s plea hearing, on October 24, 2015, Richards flew into Charlotte Douglas International Airport directly from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Upon entering the United States, Richards presented himself to CBP agents at the airport.  Richards, who acknowledged packing his own luggage, had in his possession a suitcase and a computer bag.  After initial questioning, Richards was sent to secondary inspection.  According to filed court documents, at secondary inspection, CBP agents opened Richards’ luggage and discovered an orange-and-grey colored backpack. Agents examined these items and discovered anomalies within the lining of the backpack.  Court records show that upon further inspection, the agents discovered two bags of cocaine hidden within the backpack lining, weighing approximately eight-hundred-twenty-two (822) grams with a street value, after sale and distribution, of approximately $100,000.

According to court records, upon discovery of the drugs, Richards was interviewed by HSI agents and gave multiple inconsistent statements about his luggage and eventual destination in the United States. Over the course of interview, Richards told HSI agents that he was hired by a man to bring some “stuff” to the United States and to deliver this bag to an unknown man in New York.  In court today, Richards admitted to actively participating to the drug conspiracy. 

Richards is currently in federal custody.  The charge levied against him carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $1,000,000 fine.  Richards also faces deportation proceedings upon completion of his prison term, which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.  A sentencing date has not been scheduled yet.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Rose thanked HSI, CBP and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Alcohol and Law Enforcement, for their investigation of the case. The prosecution for the government is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjeev Bhasker of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

Updated March 29, 2016