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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cuban Alien Smuggler Convicted

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that a federal jury yesterday found Yoel Emilio Baez-Hernandez (41), a Cuban citizen with lawful permanent residence in the United States, guilty of conspiring to bring 73 Cuban aliens to the United States, and bringing 13 Cuban aliens to the United States. Baez-Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for each alien he conspired to bring into the United States. In addition, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, up to 15 years in federal prison for bringing the 13 illegal aliens into the country. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 19, 2014.  Baez-Hernandez was indicted on February 20, 2014. He was charged by a superseding indictment on May 15, 2014.

According to the testimony of the three co-conspirators and other evidence presented at trial, Baez-Hernandez, Carlos Velazquez-Roman, and Edel Mesa-Hernandez conspired in late 2006 to early 2007 to bring Cuban aliens to the Port Charlotte area from the Pinar del Rio Provence located in north-western Cuba. From February 2007 through December 2009, they used Baez-Hernandez’s fast-boat, a two-outboard-engine Renegade, as one of the vessels to travel to Cuba and back.  They brought the individuals to the west coast of Florida and then caused them to be transported to the Miami area. The Cuban aliens then turned themselves into immigration authorities as having just landed nearby. The jury found that Baez-Hernandez conspired to bring 73 illegal aliens to the United States and that he and Velazquez-Roman brought 13 illegal aliens to the United States from Cuba on May 26-27, 2009. The testimony established that the conspirators charged approximately $10,000 per person to bring the aliens to the United States from Cuba.

A total of six individuals were charged in this case. Five previously pleaded guilty for their roles and are currently awaiting sentencing.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Border Patrol, and the United States Coast Guard. It is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Donald L. Hansen and Assistant United States Attorney Natalie Hirt Adams.

Updated January 26, 2015