MANATEE SAFETY ENFORCEMENT LEADS TO FEDERAL CHARGES ON MILLION-DOLLAR MARIJUANA SEIZURE
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Edward Thompson, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Kevin J. Crowley, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, Marine Interdiction, and Chief G. Matthew Immler, Boynton Beach Police Department announce that defendants Sean Leon Debiase, 42, of Delray Beach, and Chet W. Hirshfield, 35, of Palm Beach Gardens, have been charged in a criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1).
A routine patrol by police on Wednesday on Boynton Beach’s Intracoastal Waterway to educate boaters about the start of manatee season led to the discovery of nearly 1,300 pounds of marijuana valued at more than $1 million. As Boynton Beach Police Marine Unit Officers were patrolling the Intracoastal near the Boynton inlet, they observed a 30-foot center console boat heading north at a slow speed with two men aboard. The boat struck two sand bars, and one of its outboard engines was tipped up and not running. The officers headed toward the boat, which docked at the ramp in Harvey J. Oyer Jr., Boat Club Park. The defendants supplied the officers with Florida driver licenses, but could not produce valid registration for the boat. After the officers obtained verbal consent to go aboard, the defendants fled on foot. They were quickly apprehended after a short foot pursuit by Marine Interdiction Agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection who were in the immediate vicinity.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of up to 40 years in prison. They are expected to have their initial appearances in federal Magistrate Court in West Palm Beach tomorrow morning.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, Marine Interdiction, and Boynton Beach Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandy Galler.
A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.