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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

2 boat captains indicted in deadly smuggling operation

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Two Haitian nationals were indicted on charges relating to the failed migrant smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of 10 Haitian nationals following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

The indictment charges both Jimmy Metellus, 39, and Jean Morange Nelson, aka Jean Monique Nelson, 32, with 13 counts of alien smuggling placing in jeopardy the lives of aliens and nine counts of alien smuggling resulting in death and aiding the entry of alien aggravated felon. If convicted, both face up to 20 years in prison and a possible death sentence. Nelson is currently scheduled to be arraigned on June 24, 2009, and Metellus on July 1, 2009.  Both defendants were ordered detained pending trial.

According to the indictment, Metellus and Nelson were two of the captains of the migrant smuggling vessel that sank off the Palm Beach County, Fla., coast on the morning of May 13, 2009. The complaint alleges that Nelson, Metellus and two other captains left the Bahamas on May 9, 2009, on a boat with migrants bound for the United States. The boat began to have mechanical problems and was adrift for three days. Associates of the smugglers arranged for fuel to be delivered to the boat and guided it to a house in Bimini, Bahamas. In Bimini, the migrants were allegedly taken off the vessel while the boat was repaired. The next night, the migrants were reloaded on the boat, and the boat departed for the United States. Subsequently, a Good Samaritan reported to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) seeing people in the water approximately 16 miles east of Palm Beach County in the early morning hours of May 13.

After a massive USCG search and rescue operation, 16 survivors including Metellus and Nelson, and 10 deceased migrants were identified as having been on the boat. The 10 deceased include one man, seven women, one infant, and one unborn viable fetus. None of the survivors had visas or other travel documentation for admission into the United States, nor were any such documents found in the nearby waters.

Harold Anglin, one of survivors of the failed smuggling venture, was charged in a federal indictment on June 11 with illegally re-entering the U.S. after having been deported with an enhancement for being an alien convicted of a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Anglin is detained pending trial.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of ICE's Office of Investigations in West Palm Beach with the assistance of Container Security Initiative (CSI) Office of Investigations in Freeport, Bahamas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Field Operations and CBP Air and Marine, the USCG 7th Coast Guard District, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for their work in the search and rescue and the subsequent criminal investigation of this matter.

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Bell and Adrienne Rabinowitz.