A 23-foot vessel valued at nearly $30,000 has been added to the British Virgin Islands government’s fleet.
The government acquired the vessel through a forfeiture order made by Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards this morning, July 11.
The vessel once belonged to Puerto Rican native Felix Melendez-Colon who was this year found guilty of acquisition, possession, or use of proceeds of criminal conduct.
Police held the 53-year-old offender in British Virgin Islands waters in September 2015 with $359,950 on the vessel. The money is said to be proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs.
Following Melendez-Colon’s conviction, prosecuting attorney Herbert Potter requested that the boat be forfeited to the government. BVI law effectively states that the vessel can only be forfeited if it is found to be directly related to the crime.
Melendez Colon’s wife appeared before Magistrate Richards recently to contest the forfeiture.
According to the senior magistrate, Mrs Colon told the court that she was part owner of the vessel.
She stated that, although she helped to pay for the vessel, it was only registered in her husband’s name.
The woman also presented a receipt for the boat. Senior Magistrate Richards said both Mr and Mrs Colon’s signatures were on the receipt. She however noted that Mrs Colon’s signature seemed to have been added recently.
While Mr Colon’s signature was spread across the signing line, Mrs Colon’s signature fell off the line and was ‘scrunched’ beside her husband’s.
The receipt was ‘tampered with,’ said the senior magistrate. “I believe that document was a forgery…to bolster her claim [of shared ownership of the vessel].”
Senior Magistrate Richards further said it was ‘curious’ that Mrs Colon ‘traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands, but brought no other paperwork to support her claims’.
The senior magistrate added: “In analyzing Mrs Colon’s evidence, I found it contradictory. It did not have a ring of truth.”
She stated that, although Mrs Colon claimed that the boat was shared with Mr Colon (Felix), the woman continued to say ‘Felix boat’ in her testimony.
“The longer she spoke; the more I did not believe her,” added Senior Magistrate Richards. “I have examined the case, and I have concluded that it is proper for the boat to be forfeited to the Crown.”
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