A Cuban national pled guilty yesterday to charges based on a foiled alien smuggling venture from the Bahamas to the United States.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), William Gibbon, Director of the Miami Air and Marine Branch, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Rear Admiral Scott A. Buschman, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District (USCG), made the announcement.
Carlos Garcia-Legon, 54, of Cuba, appeared before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez of the Southern District of Florida, where he pled guilty to fourteen counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to come to the United States illegally, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv); one count of aiding and assisting the illegal entry of an aggravated felon, in violation of Title 8, United States Code Section 1327; one count of illegal re-entry into the United States, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1326(a) and (b)(1); and one count of failure to heave to, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2237(a)(1). Garcia-Legon faces a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment. The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Martinez in Miami on July 10, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.
According to court documents, CBP aircraft detected Garcia-Legon’s 25-foot cuddy cabin vessel near Bimini, Bahamas on February 7, 2017. CBP aircraft monitored Garcia-Legon’s vessel as it accepted the transfer of multiple passengers at sea from a second vessel. Garcia-Legon then piloted the vessel from the Bahamas to 10 miles east of Miami, Florida, a trip of approximately 35 nautical miles. When approached by CBP and USCG vessels, Garcia-Legon attempted to flee. After Garcia-Legon ignored commands to stop (or heave to) his vessel, CBP officers fired two warning shots forward of the vessel’s bow. After ignoring this warning, CBP ultimately stopped Garcia-Legon’s vessel by firing four shotgun rounds into the engines of the vessel.
With Garcia-Legon were fourteen passengers of various nationalities, including aliens from the People’s Republic of China, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador. One of the aliens aboard Garcia-Legon’s vessel was previously deported from the United States after a criminal conviction for an aggravated felony. A United States immigration judge had also previously ordered Garcia-Legon removed from the United States. The fourteen passengers and Garcia-Legon did not have authorization to enter the United States.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI, CBP Office of Air and Marine Operations, and the USCG, and the assistance of CBP/U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Rose and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Cervantes.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.