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US seeks forfeiture of hotelier “Big Head” Lovell’s property; DEA trailed cocaine-smuggling plot to The Netherlands

Shervington Lovell

The United States (US) has ordered Guyanese hotelier, Shervington ‘Big Head’ Lovell and other alleged co-conspirators in cocaine trafficking to forfeit a range of properties.

Lovell, Agimero Zapata Castro, and Surinamese Steven Antonious have been charged with violating US maritime drug enforcement laws between April and July, 2018 in Guyana, Jamaica, Colombia , the high seas an elsewhere.

In the grand jury indictment, the US asks that the defendants forfeit, among other things, all real property, including any right, title, and interest (including any leasehold interest) in the whole of any lot or tract of land any appurtenances or improvements, any drug paraphernalia and any firearm used or intended to be used to facilitate the sale, receipt, possession or concealment of property and proceeds traceable to such property”.

If any of the forfeitable property cannot be found , has been transferred, or sold to or deposited with a third person, or has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court, has been substantially diminished in value, or has been commingled with other property which cannot be subdivided without difficulty,  the US says it “will seek forfeiture of any other property of the defendant up to the value of the above-described forfeitable property”.

Guyanese  authorities have said Lovell owns seven properties in Guyana and one in Jamaica.

Lovell specifically has been charged with allegedly conspiring with others to ship  624 kilogrammes of cocaine to The Netherlands via the Azores Islands, an operation United States (US) investigators said was planned and partly funded with cash laundered from South Africa.

Lovell and several other suspected traffickers met in Guyana and Jamaica to plan the shipment. on or about June 5, 2018, Lovell allegedly met two co-conspirators at a residence in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Lovell and two other accused persons are still being held by Jamaican authorities following their arrest in late October, 2018. The source said they would extradited to the US to face trial after some “administrative procedures” are completed.

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Jeffrey Stratton, said the cocaine was found aboard a stateless vessel in international waters , 350 miles off the coast of Diamond Valley, Barbados on July 27, 2018 after Lovell and other conspirators planned the shipment from April, 2018.

The DEA said the offence, which was allegedly committed aboard a vessel that was subject to the jurisdiction of
the United States, cited Lovell for knowingly and intentionally distributing and possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

While on their 12 to 15 day voyage to the Azores Islands where the cocaine was expected to be transferred to a fishing vessel for a seven to 10 day journey to The Netherlands, the vessel was intercepted in international waters off Barbados by United States Coast Guard cutters.

“The Boarding Team also found what appeared, based on their training and experience, to be (i) an excessive
quantity of fuel on board the Vessel; and (ii) an excessive supply of rations, which they believed, based on their training and experience, indicated that the passengers on the Vessel were intending to supply other vessels with additional fuel and rations.

“Members of the Boarding Team observed mattresses in the crew berthing area of the Vessel. Below the mattresses and the wooden planks beneath those mattresses, the Boarding Team located bales, or large bundles, wrapped in green and clear plastic and packed in duffel bags that appeared, based on their training and experience, to contain narcotics.  Two samples from the Bales field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine. The Boarding Team recovered approximately 16 large duffel bags from the Vessel, each of which contained 8 Bales. In total, the contents of the Bales weighed approximately 624 kilograms. The Boarding Team also recovered a magazine containing approximately 30 rounds of ammunition,” the DEA agent said in his complaint.

The co-conspirator 1, according to the complaint,  stated that his vessel would have met a boat carrying Lovell’s and co-conspirator 2’s cocaine approximately 300 miles off the coast of Guyana and Suriname, and would then
continue to the the transfer location on July 25, 2018. The captain of the vessel was from Venezuela.

One of the DEA’s sources had informed that on July 25, 2018, the vessel belonging to the first co-conspirator would retrieve cocaine from him and the fourth conspirator about 500 miles from Trinidad and Tobago, and
would drop off that cocaine between the Azores Islands and Ireland.

The boat was expected to deliver the cocaine to fishing vessel off the coast of Ireland for transshipment to The Netherlands.

The plotters had, according to the complaint, put in place contingency plans for the cocaine to be received by the fourth co-conspirator in Bir Gandouz on the coast of Western Sahara, with the assistance of the “Tuaregs” if  there were airplanes that look out for boats.

In the complaint filed in the New York Southern District of New York, Lovell is accused of conspiracy to violate maritime drug enforcement laws of the United States (US).

According to the DEA agent, Lovell conspired confederated, and agreed together and with each other in Guyana, Jamaica, Colombia and on the high seas to commit the offence. He met with unnamed DEA confidential sources, including a convicted drug trafficker, and others at an unnamed hotel in Georgetown. Lovell is co-owner of two hotels, one in Georgetown and another in New Amsterdam.

The DEA agent alleged that Lovell had stated that he was looking for a way to get his earnings after the cocaine was sold in The Netherlands because he had never done so from that country but had from the United States and Canada.

According to the court papers,  each of the confidential sources and the co-conspirators agreed to fund the cocaine-smuggling operation cost  to the amount of US$400,000. That was expected to cover the cost of the vessel that had been previously used and three months of rations.

Lovell allegedly informed two of the conspirators and the DEA’s confidential sources in a hotel room and informed them that he had paid US$100,000 to the first conspirator, another conspirator said he had US$135,000 available to pay.

The fourth conspirator, according to the complaint, had already provided approximately US$295,000 in payment for
the venture which had been laundered from South Africa. A sixth co-conspirator, who arrived with his wife, contributed US$50,000 to the maritime project.

The DEA’s confidential  sources paid one of the co-conspirators cash and 25 kilogrammes of cocaine. Those sources informed one of the conspirators that that 100 kilograms of the cocaine shipment belonged to a fourth co-conspirator.