May 5, 2003
In two separate incidences, four passengers sailing aboard a Norwegian Sea Caribbean cruise late last month found their trip cut short when they were placed under arrest for possession of drugs. According to the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Thomas, a "routine search" of the ship, then docked at Havensight, uncovered the drugs. In the first instance, passengers Christopher Brown and Nadine Willis admitted to owning a suitcase found with "54 flat taped wrapped packages and one brick like package" -- and which was field tested and proven to contain 30.78 kilograms of cocaine. They admitted that they body-carried the narcotics onto the cruise ship while in Curacao. Curacao, in the Netherlands Antilles, was a previous port of call on that particular itinerary. In an eerily similar incident on the same day -- in the same port of call -- two other passengers were found to be in possession of drugs. In this case, Venris Clarke and Melissa Peak, that same "routine" search turned up a suitcase with, according to the U.S. Attorney¹s statement, "53 flat taped wrapped packages and six brick like packages." Also field-tested, it was revealed that they had body-carried on board nearly 30 kilograms of cocaine. Peak admitted that she would be paid $10,000.00 to body carry narcotics off the Norwegian Sea when the ship arrived in Bermuda. In all four cases, the penalty for their drug offenses -- if convicted -- is a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years to life imprisonment, a $4 million fine and a five year period of supervised release. The ex-passengers have been remanded to custody in St. Thomas until they receive a pre-trial detention hearing. The investigation is part of a stepped-up effort in the U.S. Virgin Islands to thwart drug trafficking by any method. The U.S. Attorney's Office praised a number of local and federal government entities -- the Drug Enforcement Authority, the Virgin Islands Police Department's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. Norwegian Cruise Lines did not respond to numerous calls for comment.