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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
01/27/2009

3 alien smugglers plead guilty and 4 others convicted by jury in failed smuggling venture

MIAMI - Four men were convicted of conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States and three others pleaded guilty to induce aliens to enter the United States resulting in the death of an individual following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigation.

Michel Madrigal Lopez, 30, of Hialeah; Brainer Gomez Cruz, 26, of Carol City; Humberto Carrazana, 25, of Hialeah; and Arley Ceballo Gonzalez, 31, were convicted Jan. 23, 2009 on charges of conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States and thirty-two substantive counts of attempting to smuggle aliens into the United States.

Additionally, on Jan. 20, 2009, co-defendants Alexis Viscaino Cervantes, 34, of Miami; Elienten Mendoza Zaldivar, 35, of Miami; Reynaldo Crespo Marquez, 29, of Hialeah, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to enter the United States, resulting in the death of an individual. Defendant Alexis Viscaino Cervantes pleaded guilty to failure to stop his vessel when ordered to do so by the Coast Guard.

This case stemmed from a Sep. 23, 2008 smuggling venture when a CBP aircraft observed two vessels rafted next to one another approximately 30 nautical miles west of Andros Island, Bahamas. One of the vessels appeared to be overloaded with passengers. While observing these two vessels, CBP officers observed a splash in the water, which they believed to be a fuel canister. The CBP aircraft observed a third vessel, later identified as the "Sea Fox," arrive on scene and raft next to the other two vessels. The United States Coast Guard dispatched three Coast Guard Patrol Boats to interdict the vessels.

Subsequently, the three vessels sailed towards the United States. Two of the vessels traveled parallel to each other while the third and smuggling vessel traveled behind without navigational lights, speeding and bouncing violently in the rough seas.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Pea Island, Farallon, and Ocracoke approached and interdicted the three vessels and ordered them to stop. Instead, defendant Alexis Viscaino Cervantes, the captain of the boat, with numerous individuals on board, accelerated in an attempt to outrun the Coast Guard. After about a 20-minute chase, the vessel stopped.

Onboard the stopped vessel were 32 Cuban nationals, who did not have permission to enter the United States. One of them sustained a serious head injury while the smuggling vessel was attempting to flee from the Coast Guard. The victim died as a result of the blunt force trauma he suffered when the vessel fled from the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Cutters Farallon and CGC Ocracoke stopped the other two vessels. These vessels had assisted the smuggling vessel by providing fuel and provisions and acting as decoys. Defendants Reynaldo Crespo Marquez and Humbert Carrazana were onboard one vessel. Additionally, defendants Michel Madrigal Lopez, Brainer Gomez Cruz, and Arley Ceballo Gonzalez were on board the other vessel.

Viscaino Cervantes, Mendoza Zaldivar, and Crespo Marquez face up to life in prison. Madrigal Lopez, Gomez Cruz, Carrazana, and Ceballo Gonzalez face up to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States and up to 5 years on each of the 32 substantive counts of attempting to smuggle aliens into the United States.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Perez Soto and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Russ Brown.