LAWFUEL – Florida Law News – R. Alexander Acosta, United S…

LAWFUEL – Florida Law News – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander 7th Coast Guard District, and Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announce that defendant Amil Gonzalez-Rodriguez, Rolando Gonzalez-Delgado and Heinrich Castillo-Diaz were sentenced earlier today by United States District Court Judge K. Michael Moore to twelve (12) years’ imprisonment for their roles in an alien smuggling venture that resulted in the death of a Cuban migrant.

These sentences are the result of the government’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding a July 8, 2006, migrant smuggling operation. On July 8, 2006, at approximately 5:45 a.m., the United States Coast Guard interdicted a vessel carrying 31 Cuban migrants and three crew members. The vessel, an unregistered 36-foot go-fast boat, refused the Coast Guard’s orders to stop and accelerated to evade capture despite rough seafaring conditions. The Coast Subsequently stopped the vessel near Boca Chica, Florida, following a chase and took the three defendants and 31 Cuban migrants into custody. A young migrant woman sustained severe injuries during the smugglers’ attempt to flee the Coast Guard, and subsequently died. Two additional migrants were landed because they needed medical attention.

All three defendants were charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States resulting in death, alien smuggling resulting in death, conspiracy to smuggle aliens for profit, alien smuggling for profit, unauthorized entry into Cuban territorial seas, and failure to heave to a Coast Guard vessel.

On October 3, 2006, Gonzalez-Rodriguez and Gonzalez-Delgado both pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to all counts of a 68-count Indictment. Subsequently, Gonzalez-Rodriguez was found guilty by a jury on October 12, 2006, after a one-week trial on charges of conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States and providing false information to a federal law enforcement officer during the boarding of a vessel.

At the sentencing, a United States Coast Guard Commander testified about alien smuggling in South Florida and the inherent dangers associated with this crime. Specifically, Commander Howard White testified about the number of recent deaths, injuries, and associated with alien smuggling in the Southern District of Florida. Judge Moore commended the United States government for its efforts to aggressively prosecute alien smuggling cases and for calling a witness from the United States Coast Guard to provide detailed information about the problem in South Florida.

Gonzalez-Rodriguez was sentenced to one hundred and forty-four (144) months imprisonment; three (3) years supervised release and a two hundred dollar ($200) special assessment. Gonzalez-Delgado was sentenced to one hundred and forty-four (144) months imprisonment; three (3) years supervised release; a two-thousand-five hundred dollar ($2500) fine and a six-thousand seven-hundred dollar ($6700) special assessment. Castillo-Diaz was sentenced to one hundred and forty-four (144) months imprisonment; three (3) years supervised release and a six-thousand seven-hundred dollar ($6700) special assessment.

U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta stated, “Migrant smuggling ventures cost much more than money. The real cost of human smuggling is in human lives. In 2005, fifteen migrants lost their lives at sea in failed smuggling attempts. Seven more died at sea in 2006. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting these cases aggressively to ensure that all individuals associated with human smuggling operations are brought to justice.”

“Justice was delivered today and those responsible for the death of Anay Machado-Gonzalez have been held accountable for their reckless and lawless actions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, public affairs officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District. “Migrant smugglers, and those who pay them, should view the outcome of this case as a demonstration of our resolve to end this dangerous and criminal behavior. Because there is a controlled, safe and legal means of migration to the United States, there is no reason to engage migrant smugglers or otherwise make dangerous attempts to illegally enter the United States from the sea.”

“Alien smuggling organizations are driven by greed with no regard for human life,” said Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. “Today’s sentencing should send the message that ICE will continue investigating those who seek to profit at the expense of others. While we are pleased that these smugglers have been sentenced to serve 12 years in prison for the crime that they committed, the fact remains that a woman tragically died as a result of their careless disregard for her life. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victim’s family.”

Mr. Acosta commends the investigative efforts of the United States Cost Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The sentencing was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Ray.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. 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.

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