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Press Release

Sebring Woman Charged for Role in Fatal Human Smuggling Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

MIAMI - Yaqulelin Dominguez-Nieves, 25, of Sebring, Fla., was detained pending trial today, on an indictment charging ten counts relating to an alien smuggling venture that resulted in the death of approximately sixteen people, four of whom were recovered at sea and found to have died by drowning. 

“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.”

"The Coast Guard Investigative Service is committed to safeguarding those who are vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. The indictment and arrest of Yaqulelin Dominguez-Nieves underscore our unwavering dedication to protecting individuals from the dangers of illegal smuggling operations. These criminal activities not only violate federal law but also endanger human lives. We remain steadfast in our mission to bring those who perpetrate such heinous acts to justice and ensure the safety and security of our maritime borders." said Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. Margelot of the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Southeast Field Office. 

According to allegations in the indictment and information presented during the detention hearing, Dominguez-Nieves facilitated a smuggling venture that resulted in death and that was for commercial gain.  On Nov. 16, 2022, this smuggling venture resulted in the deaths of approximately sixteen migrants, three of whom are charged in the indictment and many of whom were children, when the boat they were being smuggled in—a boat that according to a survivor was overloaded and did not contain a single life vest—sank roughly thirty miles off the coast of Cuba while in transit to the Southern District of Florida. 

Dominguez-Nieves was arrested by CGIS Special Agents.

If convicted of encouraging and inducing or attempting to bring aliens into the United States resulting in death, Dominguez-Nieves faces a maximum penalty of life in prison or death.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. Margelot of the CGIS Southeast Field Office made the announcement.

CGIS Southeast Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Keller is prosecuting this case.

An indictment contains mere allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on under case number 24-CR-20223.



Public Affairs Unit

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Southern District of Florida

Updated June 21, 2024

Human Smuggling