US Attorney Reports Human Smuggler Pleads Guilty To Deaths In Failed Smuggling Venture – 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 (ICE), and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, announced today that defendant Leon Brice Johnson pled guilty on Friday, February 29, 2008, to one count of conspiracy to smuggle aliens, three counts of alien smuggling resulting in death, and two counts of conspiracy to import controlled substances into the United States, in connection with his participation in two smuggling ventures from the Bahamas to Jupiter Island. Johnson is facing a maximum sentence of 5 life sentences on these charges.

According to the Government’s proffer at the plea hearing, defendants Rickey Thompson and Leon Brice Johnson arranged for two separate smuggling trips – one in August 2006 and a second in December 2006. During each trip, the defendants transported a group of illegal aliens and narcotics, from Freeport, Bahamas, to Jupiter Island, aboard Thompson’s 33 foot speed boat. The aliens paid Thompson fees ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 for the trip and were assured that Thompson would drop them off on the beach or in water no higher than their ankles.

During both trips, Thompson drove the boat without lights to avoid detection and made frequent stops whenever he believed he saw or heard a Coast Guard vessel. On each occasion, when the boat approached Jupiter Island, Thompson idled the boat in deep, rough waters and ordered the aliens off the boat. Each time, there were aliens aboard the boat who could not swim and who asked to remain on the boat. Ignoring their protests, the defendants ordered the aliens off the boat at gun point. Two aliens drowned during the August trip and one during the December trip.

The defendants also transported narcotics, including more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.8 kilograms of heroin and marijuana during the two trips.

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

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 Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

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