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Migrant smuggling on high seas bring new players into an old game

Posted on Monday, 05.26.14

Migrant smuggling on high seas bring new players into an old game
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
ACHARDY@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

After spotting a disabled pleasure boat with five people aboard drifting
21 miles east of Miami, a Good Samaritan contacted the U. S. Coast Guard.

The five men aboard did have mechanical trouble that mid-April morning,
but they did not want any assistance from the Coast Guard.

Turns out, they were not legally supposed to be headed toward U. S.
shores. One, the captain, was an alleged Cuban American smuggler and the
other four were undocumented migrants from Jamaica and Haiti. Two of the
four previously had been deported and were trying to re-enter the United
States illegally.

Though Coast Guard interdictions of traffickers are common on the high
seas, the case of the drifting boat provides new details of a operation
where suspected Cuban boat smugglers now are bringing non-Cuban migrants
to South Florida.

Until recently, Cuban smugglers generally focused on bringing passengers
from Cuba, but that practice appears to have stopped after the U.S.
Coast Guard stepped up patrolling the Florida Straits.

The case also suggests that the Bahamas has become a major staging area
for illegal boat trips to South Florida and a significant number of the
undocumented immigrants boarding those boats previously have been deported.

Over the last two years, an increasing number of boats have been
interdicted or spotted in waters between the Bahamas and South Florida
bringing undocumented immigrants of various nationalities, including
Brazilians, Dominicans, Ecuadorans, Haitians and Jamaicans.

Despite having been deported previously, many return because they have
families, businesses or properties in the United States, especially
South Florida.

Details of the recent case were unveiled in a criminal complaint filed
in Miami federal court by a special agent of Homeland Security
Investigations (HSI), a unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Coast Guard personnel detained the five men and brought them to their
Miami Beach base. Three – Orestes Nuñez, Ronald Young and Sabouy
Williamson – face federal charges: Nuñez with bringing and harboring
aliens; while Young and Williamson were accused of illegal re-entry
after deportation. They plead not guilty. Trial is tentatively scheduled
for June.

Young and Williamson, both Jamaicans, were ordered detained pending
trial, while Nuñez, a Cuban-American, was released on bond. Two
Haitians, Daniel Guerrier and Petit Fahadae, were not charged. It was
not known whether they will serve as government witnesses or whether
they will be deported.

After Coast Guard personnel boarded the drifting vessel, Nuñez
identified himself as the captain and claimed the boat had left Bimini –
58 miles east of Miami – 10 days earlier en route to Cat Cay and
Freeport for a day of fishing. The boat broke down four miles out of
Bimini and began to drift, he said.

But Coast Guard personnel quickly dismissed the captain’s claims, given
the vessel’s location and the absence of fishing gear.

The criminal complaint also noted that Nuñez had on him $1,800, a
handheld GPS device and three grams of marijuana. Young also carried
$5,680, plus several cell phones.

When Coast Guard personnel ran the names through federal databases, they
discovered that Young and Williamson previously had been deported –
Williamson on Feb, 8, 2013 for having a felony conviction for marijuana
possession. Young was expelled Jan. 31, 2013 for having a felony
conviction for a prior illegal reentry into the country, the criminal
complaint said.

Investigators learned that Guerrier had agreed to pay Nuñez $4,500 for
the boat ride.

Williamson told interrogators a friend in the Bahamas paid $9,000 to a
person named Sonya for his smuggling trip.

An associate, the complaint said, instructed Williamson to show up at a
specific location in Bimini where he met Nuñez. There, Williamson
boarded Nuñez’s boat and met Young. Williamson then overheard Nuñez
saying that he intended to travel to Key Largo where his home is located.

When the group saw the Coast Guard approach their disabled boat, Nuñez
instructed everyone not to say anything about the smuggling fees.

Source: Migrant smuggling on high seas bring new players into an old
game – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com –
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/26/4139878/migrant-smuggling-on-high-seas.html

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