LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United…

LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, announced today the federal arrests of boat captain Rickey Thompson and first mate Leon Brice Johnson for conspiracy and substantive charges related to the December 28, 2006, smuggling of 10 illegal aliens into the United States from the Bahamas. The smuggling venture resulted in the death of one of the aliens. Both Thompson and Johnson are facing a maximum of life imprisonment on the charges.

According to the complaint, on December 28, 2006, at approximately 11:00 p.m., law enforcement officers discovered a 35 foot vessel grounded at Blowing Rocks Preserve in Martin County, Florida. Near the boat, authorities found a black duffle bag containing approximately 83 pounds of marijuana and 1 kilogram of cocaine. Aboard the boat, they recovered a silver Smith and Wesson handgun.

After searching the area, officers located nine (9) illegal aliens who had been passengers on the boat. The body of a tenth migrant was found floating in the water near the vessel. The Martin County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be drowning.

According to the charging document, interviews of the survivors revealed that each migrant had paid Thompson between $2,000 and $4,000 for transportation from the Bahamas to the United States. The migrants waited in Freeport, Bahamas, for days or weeks for the boat to leave. On December 28, 2006, Thompson and Johnson loaded the migrants aboard the vessel and left for the United States. Once on board the vessel, Johnson searched each of the migrants and removed their cell phones. During the trip to the United States, Thompson and Johnson steered without lights and stopped frequently to avoid detection by the Coast Guard.

When the vessel approached the shore near Jupiter Island, in Martin County, Florida, Thompson ordered the migrants off the boat in deep, rough waters, although one of the aliens had previously told Thompson that he could not swim. When this individual was ordered off the boat,

he again told Thompson and Johnson that he could not swim, but was still ordered to jump off the boat. After jumping into the water, many of the aliens could hear others yelling for help and struggling to stay above the water. Nine of the migrants made it to shore; the lifeless body of the migrant who could not swim was found near the grounded vessel.

Mr. Acosta commended the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Jupiter Island Police Department; and the Tequesta Police Department for their assistance in this investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Adrienne Rabinowitz, Ellen Cohen and William Zloch.

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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