James Springette: US VI DRUG KINGPIN.

 Sint Thomas based Drug Kingpin James Springette led an international drug empire. Springette had palatial homes in Colombia,Venezuela and many Caribbean islands . Springette is accused by the US government of importing over 1000 kilos of Cocaine to America on a weekly basis. Springette escaped from a Colombian prison and engaged police in numerous shootouts. Springette's drug empire was called the Island Boys .

 ST. THOMAS — Drug kingpin James Springette and two of his henchmen, Elton Turnbull and Glenison Isaac, revealed in graphic detail Wednesday the intricate operations of a multinational drug organization that moved cocaine from Venezuela to Tortola then to St. Thomas and on to its final destination in North Carolina and how Gelean Mark was a pivotal figure in the drug cartel. 

Several DEA agents also testified about the sting operation they implemented as they launched an investigation into Springette’s drug organization.

ST. THOMAS — A federal jury heard elaborate details Monday about a multinational drug organization that moved thousands of kilograms of cocaine from South America to the United States mainland until its leader, James Springette, and Springette’s second-in-command and cousin, Elton Turnbull, both were arrested in 2003.

Springette, 49, and Turnbull, 39, testified during the first day of trial for six men accused of being part of the drug ring. Craig Claxton, Walter Ells, Vernon Fagan, Kelvin Moses, Dorian Swan and Kerry Woods were arrested in October 2005 during a roundup of suspected drug dealers in Savan near the former Red Ball grocery store, which closed in January 2005 after more than 60 years in the neighborhood.

The defendants all have been indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine. They were taken into custody as part of Operation Red Ball, a federal Drug Enforcement Agency-led investigation that targeted what prosecutors describe as an “open air market” of drugs in the neighborhood.

In another high-profile drug trial involving Ells, Fagan and about six other defendants, District Court Judge Curtis Gomez declared a mistrial after a jury could not come to a verdict. Ells and Fagan never were convicted.

Gelean Mark, who has been convicted three times — twice on two separate but related drug charges and recently on racketeering and drug smuggling charges — was named in the original indictment, but prosecutors dropped those charges.
Springette’s testimony
Throughout the testimonies of Springette and Turnbull, Mark’s name was mentioned frequently as the person responsible for recruiting couriers to move cocaine from King Airport into the continental U.S.

Springette, who pleaded guilty and is serving a 35-year sentence, detailed how he started his drug organization with a meager sum and grew it into a mutimillion dollar “company.”

“Cocaine is a very expensive commodity,” he said.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, Springette bought his first quantity of cocaine for $500.

“Then I came to the realization that drugs were not made in the Virgin Islands, and so I went to the source: Colombia,” Springette said.

Springette described how he sent hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to Tortola.

“From Colombia, they were dropped by aircraft into the BVI, then brought to the V.I. by boat, then to the U.S. by aircraft and some will be left in Puerto Rico,” Springette said.

Then in 1999, Springette was arrested in front of his home in Colombia and put in a jail in Bogota.

In 2000, Springette escaped from that jail by hiding in a mattress. He then took up residence in neighboring Venezuela, where he carried out his drug operation on a much larger scale with the use of three airplanes that he owned.

“I would communicate with the aircraft throughout the whole flight. The plane would contact me every hour by 2040 radio. When the plane was 10 minutes away from the area, I would contact the boatmen by cell phone to tell them the plane is arriving and then they would turn on their lights,” Springette said.

Once the bales of cocaine were dropped in the water near Tortola, Turnbull was responsible for getting them out of the water and over to St. Thomas, where Mark, nicknamed “Kirwin,” would hide them at his Northside farm, several other buildings and even in the ceiling at King Airport — a plan devised by Springette — until they were ready to be transported to North Carolina and other parts of the U.S.

“Kirwin had contacts with people at the airport,” Springette said.

Springette also admitted that he did not know any of the defendants.

“They weren’t on the level to speak with me. The lieutenant would speak to the people at the lower level,” he said.
Credibility questioned
Defense attorneys — Susan Moorehead for Claxton; Carl Williams for Ells; Michael Sheesley for Fagan; Andrew Capdeville for Moses; Michael Quinn for Swan; and Darren John-Baptiste for Woods — all took turns calling Springette’s credibility into question and hammering him on one common theme: his cooperation agreement with the government.

The defense suggested that Springette entered into the agreement with the government to have his sentence reduced.

Springette strongly rebutted those claims.

“My obligation is to truthfully testify when called upon. I’m simply adhering to the terms of my contract,” Springette said.

Defense counsel also reminded Springette that when he made his deal, he forfeited all money and proceeds derived from his drug venture, but that millions of dollars still is buried in Venezuela.

“There’s money hidden there that the government tried to secure, but they didn’t find it. I assisted them as much as I could. I spoke to Agent Howell. I drew maps to show him the location. He went down there to locate the money,” Springette said.

Responding to insinuations that he intends to return to Venezuela to retrieve the money once released from prison, Springette replied, “That money will be disintegrated and not good anyway.”
Turnbull’s testimony
The other star prosecution witness, Turnbull, described his role as a lieutenant in Springette’s drug enterprise, which took on a corporate-style structure. Turnbull is serving 29 years for cocaine distribution and 20 years for money laundering.

“My role took on many facets: sale of narcotics, general overseeing of the organization and communicating with other members in the organization,” Turnbull testified. “The organization was involved in the movement of narcotics from South America to both British and U.S. Virgin Islands and to the U.S.

“Another of my roles in the organization was the coordination of boat crews that would meet the planes in Tortola.”

Once Turnbull got information from Spingette about a possible shipment, Turnbull then would arrange to make sure the boats were seaworthy and mechanically ready to go to the location.

“Upon Springette indicating to me that narcotics were ready, I would travel on commercial flights to Tortola. One of my roles was to be there to be the eyes and ears of Springette. After the cocaine was successfully dropped off, they would be stored temporarily in Tortola and Kirwin would receive and store them in St. Thomas until they were ready to go,” Turnbull said.

Using drug couriers and airline employees, Mark would move the drugs from King Airport to North Carolina on commercial airlines.

“The couriers would come to the airport with a laptop computer bag with books. There was a gentleman who worked with Delta Airlines who had an identical bag with cocaine. Once the courier bypassed Customs, they would go to Delta, swap bags and proceed to North Carolina. On the day drugs were being smuggled, Mark would call me and tell me, ‘We’re working today.’ He would give me descriptions of the courier. Upon receipt of the cocaine, I would store it and later sell it to individuals. The proceeds would either be returned to St. Thomas or be sent to Miami where individuals would launder it,” Turnbull said.

“We always used Delta because on weekends, they have a direct flight to North Carolina and on weekdays, they flew to Philadelphia and the courier would fly on to North Carolina,” he said, describing routes in place at the time of the drug ring’s operation.

That route soon became “hot” after there were several drug seizures, so the organization was forced to adopt two other routes, at Mark’s suggestion, and that’s where Swan became involved.

“In 2000, there were two seizures, and Mark told me there were other routes he had at his disposal,” Turnbull said. “One went through New York and the other ended up in the Philadelphia-Baltimore area. Mark told me there was an individual known as “Warhead” that allowed him to smuggle the cocaine. He said couriers were not needed. The drugs will be stored in the belly of the plane. After I agreed with Mark to use that route, Mark instructed me that once the cocaine got to the Philadelphia-Baltimore area, Dorian Swan would call to tell me the cocaine had arrived, and I would send my couriers to retrieve the cocaine. This arrangement lasted up until my incarceration on Oct. 2, 2003.”

Another defendant Turnbull identified was Moses, whom he said he knew from being at Mark’s farm.

Turnbull said he did not know the other defendants.
Motive’s questioned
Defense attorneys took turns assailing Turnbull, questioning his motive for pleading guilty and entering a cooperation deal with the government — to get a reduction of his sentence.

“My responsibility to the government was to offer truthful testimony,” Turnbull said. “As opposed to going to trial and receiving the upper end of the sentencing guideline, pleading guilty would allow me to be sentenced on the lower end of the guideline.”

Quinn also pointed out to Turnbull that nowhere in his original statements to investigators is Swan’s name mentioned.

“What the agents deemed important to write down, I don’t know. I divulged all the information,” Turnbull responded.

Turnbull takes the stand again today to continue being cross-examined by the defense.

At the start of the hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Delia Smith told jurors that the evidence presented through cooperating witnesses, drug couriers and investigators would support a guilty verdict.

considered the evidence, that your verdict will be these individuals committed violations against the U.S.,” Smith said. “We believe, having

Each defense attorney countered that argument.

“‘Speculation’ and ‘conjecture’ — these are words you may hear that will describe the basis the government used to arrive at its indictment. Ells sits before you today an innocent man, and I pray, at the end, that you’ll find the government did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Williams said.

no intercepted calls targetting him.” wasn’t even on the radar. There were wasn’t in possession of any drugs or contraband or any large sums of money. He Capdeville said, “I want you to keep in mind that at the time of Moses’ arrest, he

end of this case, you may find that these people are not believable.”  At the drug dealers and all are trying to get something from being in that witness chair. all of these people are convicted  You can conclude  I’ve seen the witness list and there are four witnesses who will give testimony against Swan. Quinn said, “Swan is an innocent man.

Sheesley said, “Many of the witnesses have a motive: They are convicted drug dealers, and they have agreed with the government and in return, the government will recommend to the court to reduce their sentences. You will hear audiotapes, and some may have my client’s voice on them, but the government will not show my client dealing any drugs. Very few of the witnesses will have anything to say about Fagan.”

John-Baptiste said, “We’re not going to deny that my client knows some of these persons and even traveled with them. Is it guilt by association? No, it’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I ask you to return a verdict of not guilty.”

Moorhead said, “Most of these individuals know one another from childhood — and they have a common interest — but that common interest is not drugs. Craig Claxton is innocent and he has every right to be found not guilty.”


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