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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

2 Haitian boat captains sentenced to prison in connection with deadly smuggling operation in South Florida

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Jimmy Metellus, 34, and Jean Morange Nelson, aka Jean Monique Nelson, 33, both Haitian citizens, were sentenced Thursday and Friday in connection with the May 13, 2009, failed migrant smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of nine Haitian nationals and an unborn fetus following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Metellus was sentenced Friday to 174 months in prison, five years of supervised release and ordered to pay a special assessment in the amount of $2,200. Nelson was sentenced Thursday to 156 months in prison, five years of supervised release and a special assessment in the amount of $2,200.00.

Both Nelson and Metellus pleaded guilty to 13 counts of alien smuggling placing in jeopardy the lives of aliens and nine counts of alien smuggling resulting in death.

Metellus and Nelson were two of the captains of the migrant smuggling vessel that sank off the Palm Beach County, Fla., coast during the morning of May 13, 2009. 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 had 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. A good samaritan reported to the U.S. Coast Guard seeing people in the water approximately 16 miles east of Palm Beach County in the early morning hours of May 13, 2009.

After a massive search and rescue operation conducted by the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Interdiction Agents, CBP U.S. Border Patrol, the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach Fire and Rescue, and the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office, 16 survivors, including Metellus and Nelson, and 10 deceased were identified as having been on the boat. The 10 deceased migrants included one adult male, seven adult females, 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.

In addition, on June 11, 2009, Harold Anglin, one of the survivors and passengers on the alien smuggling vessel, was charged in an indictment with illegally re-entering the United States after having been deported, with an enhancement for being an alien convicted of a felony. On Dec. 4, 2009, Anglin, an aggravated felon, pleaded guilty to re-entry of a removed alien. He was later sentenced to 30 months in prison, 24 months supervised release, and ordered to pay a special assessment of $100.

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in West Palm Beach with the assistance of Container Security Initiative (CSI) Homeland Security Investigations in Freeport, Bahamas, CBP Field Operations and CBP Air and Marine, the U.S. Coast Guard's 7th Coast Guard District, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Bell and Adrienne Rabinowitz.