FORT PIERCE, FL. - A Bahamian human smuggler was convicted following a jury trial on all 30 counts of a federal indictment charging him with murder, alien smuggling and narcotics trafficking, in connection with August and December 2006 smuggling ventures from the Bahamas to Jupiter Island following a multi-agency law enforcement investigation.
R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida made the announcement and commended the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 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 Public Safety Department, and Tequesta Police Department for their investigation of this matter. This case was tried by Assistant United States Attorneys Adrienne Rabinowitz and Lauren Jorgensen, with assistance from Ellen Cohen, all of the West Palm Beach U. S. Attorney's Office.
Following a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, FL, the jury found Rickey Thompson, of the Bahamas, guilty of 17 counts of alien smuggling that placed lives in jeopardy, three counts of second degree murder, three counts of alien smuggling resulting in death, four counts of importation of narcotics including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, two counts of carrying and brandishing a firearm, three counts of conspiracy and one count of illegal re-entry after being previously deported from the U. S.
According to the indictment and trial evidence, in August 2006, defendant Rickey Thompson and his co-defendant Leon Brice Johnson, formerly a resident of the Bahamas, (who previously pled guilty) arranged to transport six illegal aliens from Freeport, Bahamas, to Jupiter Island, aboard Thompson's 35-foot vessel. 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 knees. Thompson's boat left Freeport, Bahamas, on August 15, 2006 for Jupiter Island.
Thompson drove the boat without lights to avoid detection and stopped the boat whenever he believed he saw or heard a Coast Guard vessel. On both trips, Thompson's boat approached Jupiter Island during the night. Thompson stopped the boat in deep, rough waters 50 to 100 yards off the shore of Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island and ordered the aliens off the boat.
On the August trip, several of the aliens complied with Thompson's order and jumped; however, others who could not swim, including Roselyne Lubin and Alnert Charles, Haitian nationals, remained on the boat. Johnson then forced the remaining aliens off the boat at gun point. The aliens jumped over and attempted to swim to shore. Four of the aliens made it to shore and the lifeless bodies of Ms. Lubin and Mr. Alnert were found floating in the water near Jupiter Island.
Law enforcement officers responded to the area where the aliens had landed and recovered approximately 12 kilos of cocaine.
On the December trip, Thompson and Johnson again drove the boat toward Jupiter Island, and again ordered the 11 aliens and two drug couriers to jump overboard into rough waters off the shore of Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island, close to where the boat had stopped in August. Several of them resisted and again were ordered off the boat at gunpoint. One of the aliens, Jamaican national Nigel Warren, had told Thompson he could not swim and begged Thompson to let him stay on the boat. Thompson ordered him overboard and Warren drowned shortly after being forced off the boat.
On that trip, narcotics recovered from the area near the boat landing included a large duffel bag containing 83 pounds of marijuana, 1.8 kilograms of heroin and 1 kilogram of cocaine.
Thompson faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on the murder charges, ten years to life on the cocaine and heroin smuggling charges, up to 20 years on the alien smuggling charges, up to five years on the marijuana charge, up to ten years on the illegal re-entry charge and consecutive seven and 25 year prison terms on the firearms charges.