TWO HAITIAN BOAT CAPTAINS SENTENCED TO PRISON IN CONNECTION WITH DEADLY SMUGGLING OPERATION IN PALM BEACH COUNTY
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District, and Randy Donnelson, Director of Air Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announced the sentencings of defendants Jimmy Metellus, 34, and Jean Morange Nelson, a/k/a Jean Monique Nelson, 33, both Haitian citizens, in connection with the May 13, 2009 failed migrant smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of nine Haitian nationals and an unborn fetus.
On September 3, 2010, Jimmy Metellus was sentenced to 174 months in prison, five years of supervised release and ordered to pay a special assessment in the amount of $2,200. On September 2, 2010, Jean Morange Nelson was sentenced to 156 months in prison, five years of supervised release and a special assessment in the amount of $2,200.00.
Both Nelson and Metellus pleaded guilty to 13 counts of Alien Smuggling Placing in Jeopardy the Lives of Aliens, in violation of Title 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (v)(II), and 1324(a)(1)(B)(iii) and nine counts of Alien Smuggling Resulting in Death, Title 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (v)(II), and 1324(a)(1)(B)(iv).
According to court records and witness testimony, defendants Metellus and Nelson were the two of the captains of the migrant smuggling vessel that sank off the Palm Beach county coast during the morning of May 13, 2009. Nelson, Metellus and two other captains left the Bahamas on May 9, 2009, on a boat with migrants bound for the U.S. The boat began to have mechanical problems and was adrift for three days. Associates of the smugglers arranged for fuel to be delivered to the boat, and guided it to a house in Bimini, Bahamas. In Bimini, the migrants were allegedly taken off the vessel while the boat was repaired. The next night, the migrants were reloaded on the boat, and the boat departed for the U.S. A Good Samaritan reported to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) seeing people in the water approximately 16 miles east of Palm Beach County, Fla., in the early morning hours of May 13, 2009.
After a massive search and rescue operation conducted by the USCG, CBP Air and Marine Interdiction Agents, CBP U.S. Border Patrol, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Fire and Rescue, and the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office, 16 survivors, including Metellus and Nelson, and 10 deceased were identified as having been on the boat. The 10 deceased migrants included one adult male, seven adult females, one infant, and one unborn viable fetus. None of the survivors had visas or other travel documentation for admission into the U.S., nor were any such documents found in the nearby waters.
In addition, on June 11, 2009, defendant Harold Anglin, one of the survivors and passengers on the alien smuggling vessel, was charged in a one-count indictment with illegally re-entering the U.S. after having been deported, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1326(a), with an enhancement for being an alien convicted of a felony, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1326(b)(2). On Dec. 4, 2009, Anglin, an aggravated felon, pleaded guilty to Re-Entry of a Removed Alien, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) and (b) (2). He was later sentenced to 30 months in prison, 24 months supervised release, and ordered to pay a special assessment of $100.
Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in West Palm Beach with the assistance of Container Security Initiative (CSI) Homeland Security Investigations in Freeport, Bahamas, CBP Field Operations and CBP Air and Marine, the USCG 7th Coast Guard District, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for their work in the search and rescue and the subsequent criminal investigation of this matter. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Bell and Adrienne Rabinowitz.
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.