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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last Individual Sentenced In Cuban Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich yesterday sentenced Yoel Emilio Baez-Hernandez (41, Hialeah) to five years in federal prison for conspiring to bring 73 illegal Cuban aliens to the United States and for bringing 13 illegal Cuban aliens to the United States. The Court also ordered Baez-Hernandez to pay a $73,000.00 fine and to forfeit an outboard motor go-fast vessel, a 2006 BMW vehicle, a liquor store license, equipment, and inventory that are traceable to proceeds of the offenses. As part of his sentence, the Court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $730,000.00, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct. A federal jury found Baez-Hernandez guilty on July 2, 2014.

According to court testimony and documents, Baez-Hernandez and his cousin, Edel Mesa-Hernandez (36, Miami), approached Carlos Velazquez-Roman (41, North Port) in late 2006 or early 2007, and suggested they start smuggling Cubans into the United States for profit, using a duel outboard engine go-fast vessel that Baez-Hernandez had purchased for that purpose. Between March 2007 and December 2009, at least 73 illegal aliens were smuggled into the United States. The smugglers charged an average of $10,000 per alien smuggled. One of the last trips made before Baez-Hernandez left the conspiracy was in May 2009, when Velazquez-Roman and Baez-Hernandez traveled to Cuba and smuggled 13 Cuban aliens into the United States, including Baez-Hernandez’s aunt. The conspiracy continued after December 2009, when Velazquez-Roman purchased another go-fast vessel. He and Mesa-Hernandez made additional trips to Cuba to smuggle more aliens into the United States. The last such trip took place in October 2013. 

Altogether, the conspiracy accounted for more than 150 illegal Cuban aliens being brought into the United States between 2007 and 2013. Also assisting in this conspiracy were Jasmine Santos-Martinez (41, North Port), the spouse of Velazquez-Roman, Mario Emilio Tamayo-Mejias (52, Port Charlotte), who assisted Velazquez-Roman on a smuggling trip in May 2013, and Amable Gonzalez-Mandin (56, Hialeah), who made arrangements for two illegal Cuban aliens to be smuggled into the United States in May 2013.

Carlos Velazquez-Roman pleaded guilty on June 6, 2014. He was sentenced on September 10, 2014, to four years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a money judgment in the amount of $1.53 million. In addition, he was ordered to forfeit his residence and other property, a vehicle, his go-fast vessel, and $30,000.00 that was found in his home.

Jasmine Santos-Martinez pleaded guilty on May 21, 2014. She was sentenced on September 10, 2014, to time served--approximately six months and five days. She was also ordered to pay a money judgment in the amount of $1.53 million, in addition to forfeiting her residence and other property, a vehicle, the go-fast vessel, and $30,000.00 found in her home.

Mario Emilio Tamayo-Mejias pleaded guilty on June 6, 2014. He was sentenced on September 10, 2014, to five years’ probation and ordered to pay a money judgment in the amount of $50,000.00.

Amable Gonzalez-Mandin pleaded guilty on May 27, 2014. He was sentenced to five years’ probation on September 10, 2014.

Edel Mesa-Hernandez pleaded guilty on April 29, 2014. He was sentenced on August 1, 2014, to one year and one day imprisonment, and ordered to pay a money judgment in the amount of $1.53 million.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Border Patrol, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Donald L. Hansen.

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Updated January 26, 2015