LawFuel – Legal Announcments – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations, Harold Woodward, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Rear Admiral Steve Branham, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, 7th District, announce the November 7, 2008 arrest of defendant Crecencio Hernandez, 62 of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, on charges of smuggling aliens into the United States for financial gain. If convicted, Hernandez faces a minimum of three years in prison, and up to ten. Hernandez made his initial appearance in federal court at 1:30 PM today.
According to the criminal complaint filed in court, on October 31, 2008, the Coast Guard received reports that an old wooden vessel, carrying passengers, had run aground on a sandbar off of Virginia Key, near Key Biscayne. Coast Guard officers boarded the vessel, and found twelve Dominican nationals on board. Other passengers, all Brazilian and Dominican nationals, had jumped off the boat in an effort to swim ashore. Some of them made it to shore, but were later apprehended by Coast Guard and Border Patrol officers and ICE agents, including defendant Hernandez. Six migrants did not make it, and were found dead.
Of those that were found on the boat and on shore, many identified defendant Hernandez as the captain of the wooden boat. They said that they had paid between $4,000.00 and $15,000.00 to be smuggled into the United States illegally. Defendant Hernandez himself said that he had been given a reduction on the smuggling price he paid in exchange for guiding and navigating the vessel from the Dominican Republic to the United States.
U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “The tragedy of human smuggling continues to unfold in South Florida. In this case, six more lives were lost in yet another failed smuggling venture. We will continue to aggressively prosecute these cases in the hopes of deterring would-be smugglers from engaging in future ventures that could result in additional loss of lives.”
“ICE strongly discourages people from taking to the seas and attempting to illegally enter the United States,” said Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami. “Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip. ICE will continue to aggressively pursue those at every level in the smuggling chain who prey on human beings for their own financial gain.”
“Human smuggling is a criminal enterprise that often results in tragic consequences for those who attempt it. Through the collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies in South Florida, we are preventing these illegal and dangerous operations,” said Harold Woodward, Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Miami.
“The Coast Guard and our Federal, state and local law enforcement partners remain committed to protecting life at sea and our nation’s maritime borders,” said Rear Adm. Steve Branham, Seventh Coast Guard District Commander. “All too often, illegal migrant smuggling ventures unnecessarily result in death or serious injury to the migrants. There are safe and legal means to immigrate to the United States.”
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, and City of Miami Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Luck.
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 http://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 http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.