ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) teamed up Wednesday to thwart an attempt by human smugglers to sneak Brazilian nationals into the United States.
A CBP marine unit intercepted a 20-foot single engine vessel with five persons on board Wednesday near Thatch Cay. Three of the passengers were Brazilian nationals. A fourth passenger, one of the alleged human smugglers, was a citizen of the Dominican Republic. The captain of the vessel was a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The HSI investigation into the smuggling attempt resulted in the arrest of another suspected smuggler from the Dominican Republic Friday. On Saturday, as a result of two federal search warrants executed in the territory, 10 additional Brazilian nationals were apprehended.
Three suspects were charged with harboring and transporting illegal aliens, three Brazilians were charged with re-entering the United States after deportation and the remaining 10 Brazilians were charged with entering the United States without inspection.
"Human smuggling is the importation of people into a country via the deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This includes bringing illegal aliens into a country, as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in a country illegally," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge for HSI San Juan and U.S. Virgin Islands. "Those who think that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can be used as easy transshipment points for human smuggling should take note that we will not tolerate this flagrant violation to our immigration laws."
"Customs and Border Protection is an agency committed to securing our borders while at the same time cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of U.S. laws. CBP officers are always vigilant to detect individuals that have broken our laws and attempt to defeat our justice system," stated Marcelino Borges, director of field operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This is an HSI-led investigation with assistance from CBP, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Park Service, the Virgin Islands Police Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard.