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Four Carefree IV defendants imprisoned

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Four men involved in an “infamous” attempt to bring $3.4 million worth of cannabis into Bermuda after a “caper” at sea were yesterday jailed for a total of almost 25 years.

Carlos Rogers, Shaun Johnson, Bilal Shakir and Kinole Simons were arrested in January 2011 after police boarded the 32ft sloop

Carefree IV, which had been missing at sea, and intercepted a smaller vessel, which met with the sailboat in the dead of night for a handover of the illegal drugs.

Sentencing the men in Supreme Court, Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves said: “This is a very famous case or infamous case. I believe the whole of Bermuda is familiar with this case.

“Much attention has been paid to this matter, the drama of which played out for several months at sea and on the airwaves.

“It’s a serious matter because it concerns the bringing in to Bermuda of $3.4 million worth of cannabis.

“The impact upon this small society of such a large quantity of this illicit drug is left for many to measure in their consideration. At least it could be said that there could be nothing positive about that impact.”

Rogers, 42, of Somerset Road, Sandys, bought the

Carefree IV in the Dominican Republic and sailed it back to Bermuda in December 2010, carrying almost 69 kilograms of cannabis.

Mr Justice Greaves said he “played the most significant role in this caper” and locked him up for eight-and-a-half years after he admitted possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply.

The judge also made a confiscation order for the defendant’s assets, including the

Carefree IV, totalling $15,000.

Johnson, 28, of Pembroke, who skippered the smaller boat which went out to sea to meet the

Carefree IV in the early hours of January 21, 2011, was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to handling a controlled drug with intent to supply.

Sandys residents Shakir, 40, and Simons, 31, who accompanied Johnson in the Boston whaler and admitted the same handling charge, both got five years in prison.

A fifth defendant, Kwesi Hollis, 37, of Harlem Heights, Hamilton Parish, who pleaded not guilty to conspiring to import cannabis and possessing cannabis with intent to supply, was discharged after the Crown decided not to proceed with his prosecution.

Prosecutor Maria Sofianos told the hearing how Rogers and Mr Hollis travelled to the Dominican Republic in July 2010, with Rogers staying on the Caribbean island for about six months, during which time he paid $12,000 for the

Carefree IV.

He and Mr Hollis set sail for Bermuda on December 4, 2010, but encountered difficult weather conditions, including several storms, and ended up at sea for 49 days with depleted food and water supplies.

Ms Sofianos said two passing ships came to their assistance and warned the pair that approaching severe weather conditions and the poor seaworthiness of their boat could put them in danger.

“Defendant Rogers and Hollis ignored the advice of the ships’ personnel to abandon the vessel and come aboard for their own safety,” she added.

The prosecutor said the men boarded one of the ships to make telephone calls to their families, during which time the captain of the vessel took photographs of them and the

Carefree IV, which were sent to Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre.

The centre detected the sailboat in Bermuda’s waters on the evening of January 20, 2011, and kept it on its radar.

“At some point, defendant Rogers telephoned defendant Shakir and arranged for him to bring supplies to the

Carefree IV,” said Ms Sofianos. “These defendants are known to each other through a family connection.”

In the early hours of the next day, the radar picked up a Boston whaler leaving the west of the Island and heading towards the

Carefree IV.

The prosecutor said Johnson, a qualified mariner, had taken the small craft from the Cambridge Beaches area without the owner’s permission and was given the coordinates of the

Carefree IV over the telephone.

“Defendant Rogers, in an attempt to evade detection, had arranged for the small craft to meet with the

Carefree IV at sea during the hours of darkness,” said Ms Sofianos.

“This being a highly organised mission, there was a handover of bulk items at sea from the

Carefree IV onto the small craft.

“Defendant Rogers handed the knapsacks to Shakir and asked him to hold them until he came to see him.”

Ms Sofianos described how the maritime centre used binoculars to track the smaller craft as it headed back to the Island in choppy waters and gale force winds.

“The occupants were seen to be acting in a suspicious manner, continuously looking behind them. Further, the three males were not dressed in bright colours that seafarers would normally wear, nor were they wearing life vests.”

Police set off to intercept the boat and, as officers drew closer, Johnson was heard telling his companions: “That’s the man, throw that shit overboard.”

All three men were seen throwing large bulky objects into the sea, which were later retrieved by detectives. One bag contained personal documents belonging to Rogers, along with a cell phone with ‘Carlos’ inscribed on it and two small blocks of cannabis.

Two other bags contained compressed packages of cannabis and further blocks were wrapped with a piece of cloth.

Johnson initially refused to stop the boat after being ordered to by police but eventually did and the trio was arrested. The

Carefree IV was intercepted later that morning.

Ms Sofianos said the two boats were forensically linked, having rubbed together at sea, causing paint transfer.

Rogers, a boat captain who has a son in Bermuda and a child in the Dominican Republic, told the court he was “just sorry I got other people into this”.

He apologised for embarrassing his family and wasting the court’s time. “I just want to get it over with, done with,” he said. His lawyer Larry Mussenden said he yielded to temptation in the Dominican Republic and now threw himself on the court’s mercy.

Truck driver Shakir, who is married with two children, apologised to “the court, Bermuda and my family” and said he would use his time in prison to change.

He added: “This year has been a really traumatic one. I have learned a lot. I doubt you’ll ever see me in court again.”

His lawyer Charles Richardson said he should get a discounted sentence because he was willing to give evidence if the case went to trial.

Lawyer Shade Subair said the same went for her client, Simons, whom she said came to court full of remorse.

Simons, a painter and decorator who is separated from his wife and has a three-year-old daughter, said: “I’m very sorry to Bermuda, to your Worship and to Bermuda Police Service and my family.

“I guess some things you have to go through in life to really respect what you have.” He added he had made wrong decisions for which he was “very sorry”.

Johnson, also a truck driver, did not address the court. His lawyer Marc Daniels said though his client operated the small boat, all parties were “effectively in the same role”.

Mr Justice Greaves ruled that the time already spent in custody by the men, all of whom have previous criminal convictions, should be taken into consideration.

Mr Hollis told

The Royal Gazette he had no comment after the hearing.

Shaun Johnson
Carlos Rogers
Bilal Shakir
Kinole Simons
Photo by Tamell Simons Police officers have intercepted two vessels this morning during a marine operation, one being the Carefree IV. As a result five individuals have been arrested, including the two-man crew of the Carefree IV and a significant quantity of suspected drugs has been seized. An investigation into the matter is ongoing. Pictured is vessel at Marginal Wharf St.Davids.

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Published March 17, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 17, 2012 at 7:53 am)

Four Carefree IV defendants imprisoned

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