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

LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Sheriff Ken Jenne, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Beutlich, Director, Air Operations Miami, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine, Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander 7th Coast Guard District, U.S. Coast Guard, Paul Blocker Jr., and Chief Patrol Agent, CBP Border Patrol, Miami Sector announced today that defendant Zhivargo McBride pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard to an Indictment that included second degree murder charges and multiple counts of alien smuggling with death resulting. McBride pled guilty to all fifteen counts in the Indictment: three counts of second degree murder, three counts of alien smuggling with death resulting, one count of alien smuggling resulting in serious bodily injury, and eight counts of alien smuggling for profit.

McBride was indicted on February 16, 2006, by a Ft. Lauderdale grand jury. The charges revolved around a November 5, 2005, alien smuggling venture that resulted in the drowning deaths of three migrants. McBride, a Bahamian citizen, was the boat captain of a vessel that was attempting to smuggle eight migrants into the United States from the Bahamas. As the vessel approached the Broward County shore, McBride ordered the migrants to jump at night off the boat and into the ocean several hundred feet from shore. Three migrants drowned while attempting to reach shore and a fourth was seriously injured when he was struck by the boat’s propeller.

Since September of 2005, numerous migrant smuggling attempts by boat occurred in South Florida. To date, at least seventeen (17) migrants have died, and many more have been severely injured. In response to the large number of migrant smuggling incidents and resulting deaths, a multi-agency task force, called Operation Lost at Sea, was established to investigate the smugglers and their criminal enterprise. Under Operation Lost at Sea, agents and detectives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, have joined forces to interdict these criminal ventures and prosecute these cases. As a direct result of the efforts of this joint task force, a number of prosecutions have been brought against persons involved in human smuggling.

McBride is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6, 2007, at 3:00 p.m. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “Migrant smugglers are callous and dangerous profiteers who value money over the safety and well-being of their passengers. Their total disregard for human life is clear in this case, where three migrants died after the defendant ordered them to jump off the boat at night and into the deep ocean water. We hope that today’s guilty plea to murder and smuggling charges brings some measure of comfort to the families of the deceased, and that it acts to deter those who would consider such crimes in the future.”

Anthony Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge for ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami said, “Human smuggling is a dangerous and illegal business. While we cannot erase the tragic consequences of this case, ICE will continue to bring to justice those who smuggle humans for profit.”

John S. Beutlich, Director, Miami Air and Marine, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine, stated, “McBride’s guilty plea sends a loud and clear message to human smugglers that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is committed to the vigorous enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. In conjunction with our federal and state law enforcement partners, CBP is dedicated to protecting America’s borders and bringing criminals to trial.

Paul Blocker Jr., Chief Patrol Agent, CBP Border Patrol, Miami Sector, “Maritime smuggling of human beings continues to be a serious concern of the Department of Homeland Security. Smugglers often have a blatant disregard for life and we collectively work together to deter and mitigate this type of smuggling venture. CBP Border Patrol works collectively with all of our DHS partners in securing our nations borders, which is paramount in protecting the national security of the United States. We will continue to educate the public on the dangers associated with the life threatening tactics utilized by smuggling organizations, and ally with the U.S. Attorney’s office to successfully prosecute violators.”

“Today’s indictment serves as a reminder of the dangers associated with migrant smuggling, the needless loss of life and the ruthless nature of migrant smugglers,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, public affairs officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District. “We will continue to aggressively enforce U.S. immigration policy, secure our maritime borders, rescue those in peril at sea and help bring to justice those who engage in the unlawful and reckless act of migrant smuggling.”

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Marc Anton and Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Diaz.

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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