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December 6, 2023St. Thomas, VI, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Ghost gun trafficker sentenced for cocaine and firearms convictions

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith announced Dec. 6 that District Court Chief Judge Robert A. Molloy sentenced Somalie Bruce, 37, to 120 months of incarceration for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to traffic firearms.

In March 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a parcel that Bruce mailed to the United States from a post office in St. Croix. The parcel contained over 1.1 kilograms of cocaine.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) learned that Bruce’s girlfriend, co-defendant Jeanorah Williams, purchased 67 postal money orders totaling over $65,000 made out to various gun manufacturers in Florida and North Carolina. Investigators later discovered that from May 2019 to July 2020, over 70 parcels from those firearm companies were mailed to either Bruce or Williams.

The packages contained multiple firearm parts, including M-16 rifle bolt assemblies, AR-15 rifle barrels and several flare gun inserts that convert flare guns into firearms. An August 2020 search warrant for the defendant’s email account revealed invoices to various firearms companies totaling over $95,000 in purchases between May 2019 and August 2020. The invoices showed that defendant purchased over 200 firearm related parts, primarily for the construction of multiple AR-15 and M-16 rifles and multiple Glock handguns.

Federal law enforcement officials intercepted several other parcels addressed to either Bruce or Williams between October 2020 and December 2020, each containing multiple firearm parts and accessories. Bruce or Williams picked up these parcels at one of two post offices in St. Croix. Investigators also found several firearms, including one with an obliterated serial number, a shotgun, and five handguns.

Neither Bruce nor Williams were licensed firearm dealers, importers or manufacturers as defined by federal law. Neither had a license or permit to carry, possess or otherwise have a firearm under Virgin Islands law.

“The outcome of this investigation and significant sentence is a testament to the successful collaboration between our federal and local law enforcement agencies,” said HSI San Juan Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Gonzalez-Ramos. “The assembly of these ghost gun parts into fully functioning, high powered rifles and pistols poses a threat to the public safety of Virgin Islanders. HSI has a firm stance against weapons trafficking and wants to make it clear that we will not tolerate weapons trafficking in the USVI, which is fueling violent crime.”

“This case is a prime example that when law enforcement partners work together, the results are endless,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection San Juan’s Director of Field Operations Roberto Vaquero. “I am extremely proud of our CBP officers and our law enforcement counterparts who utilized a multilayered enforcement approach of intelligence collection, X-ray technology, analysis — and most importantly, subject matter expertise — to ultimately disrupt this criminal organization and keep our USVI community safe.”

This case was investigated by HSI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms; the Drug Enforcement Administration; Virgin Islands Port Authority Police; and the Virgin Islands Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCEDTF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transactional criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multiagency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.