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Press Release

Bahamian National Charged and Arrested for Role in Fatal Human Smuggling Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
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An indictment was unsealed in the Southern District of Florida today charging a Bahamian national for his alleged role in a human smuggling conspiracy that resulted in multiple migrant deaths.

As a result of extensive coordination and cooperation between U.S. and Bahamian authorities, Vandrick Nelson Smith, also known as Muggy and Vans, 33, was arrested on March 6 in The Bahamas pursuant to a request by the United States involving charges filed under seal in the Southern District of Florida in November 2023. 

According to court documents, Smith was allegedly involved in a human smuggling organization that attempted to bring migrants illegally from The Bahamas to the United States by boat. The migrants were nationals of Colombia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, among other countries. The migrants (or their families and friends) allegedly paid the organization money to be smuggled to the United States. As described below, the indictment alleges that Smith was personally involved in three maritime human smuggling incidents — including one that resulted in five deaths.

“Vandrick Smith has been charged with organizing dangerous human smuggling operations, sending migrants from The Bahamas to Florida by boat,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As alleged in the indictment, the human smuggling organization’s efforts turned deadly, when a boat carrying migrants capsized in January 2022. Human smugglers exploit desperate people for money, and the consequences can be tragic. The Criminal Division is committed to combating human smuggling organizations that prey on and endanger vulnerable migrants, wherever they operate.”

Smith allegedly was involved in three maritime human smuggling events that occurred on or about March 6, 2021; Jan. 22, 2022; and Aug. 8, 2022. On the evening of Jan. 22, 2022, the indictment alleges that numerous migrants boarded a vessel in The Bahamas destined for Florida. Shortly after the vessel’s departure, the engines allegedly stopped functioning and the vessel capsized. On Jan. 25, 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued the sole surviving migrant, who was found clinging to the top of the overturned vessel.

“Human smuggling ventures put people’s lives at risk for the sake of profit,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “Human smugglers prey on the migrants’ hopes for a better life. Tragically, the smugglers’ exploits pose a grave danger to migrants. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our partners to prosecute those who carry out illicit human smuggling operations to protect vulnerable migrants and save lives.”

“Homeland Security Investigations remains dedicated to working with our domestic and international partners to bring to justice reckless criminals who prioritize financial gain over people’s lives and safety,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami. “The risks associated with maritime human smuggling ventures are extreme. We urge the public to avoid embarking on these journeys with dangerous criminal organizations, which often result in tragedy.”

Smith is charged with five counts of attempting to bring noncitizens to the United States resulting in death stemming from the January 2022 venture. He is also charged with conspiring to bring noncitizens to the United States for profit, placing in jeopardy the life of noncitizens and resulting in death; attempting to bring noncitizens to the United States for profit; and attempting to aid and assist certain noncitizens to enter the United States. If convicted of attempting to bring noncitizens to the United States resulting in death, Smith faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

HSI Fort Pierce and the HSI Assistant Attaché in Nassau, The Bahamas, investigated the case, with assistance from HSI Miami, U.S. Coast Guard, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, and Brevard County Medical Examiner’s Office. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant support with foreign legal assistance requests and securing the arrest. The Justice Department thanks the Royal Bahamas Police Force, The Bahamas’ Office of the Attorney General, The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Bahamas Immigration Department, and The Bahamas Department of Public Prosecutions for their assistance in the case.

The investigation is being conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence, and prosecutorial resources. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

Trial Attorney Marie Zisa of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Hoover for the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated March 27, 2024

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 24-351