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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Haitian smuggler alleged to have been linked to the death of 10 migrants arrested by ICE

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Haitian national, 33, alleged to have been linked to a smuggling attempt that resulted in the death of 10 migrants was arrested here Saturday by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Jimmy Metellus is facing federal criminal charges for alien smuggling that places in jeopardy the life of any person, and that results in the death of another person. His initial appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, May 20, 2009, at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne E. Vitunac in West Palm Beach.

"Today's federal criminal charges are the result of the tireless efforts of ICE agents, our Department of Homeland Security partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate, identify and arrest those involved in the illicit and dangerous activity of human smuggling," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "ICE strongly discourages people from taking to the seas and attempting to illegally enter the United States through maritime means. Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip."

On May 13, 2009, ICE special agents were notified by the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) of a potential alien smuggling event with confirmed deaths. The USCG reported that they were contacted by a "good Samaritan" that people were in the water and that the vessel they were on had apparently capsized and sunk approximately 15 miles off of the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Fla.

ICE special agents immediately responded to the scene and began a criminal investigation while the search and rescue effort was underway. Officers and personnel with the USCG, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine and Office of Border Patrol, the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, the Palm Beach Fire and Rescue and the Palm Beach Medical Examiner's Office participated in the recovery effort.

The injured were brought to area hospitals by the USCG and were being monitored by CBP personnel. The 10 deceased migrants including two adult males, six adult females and one infant were transported to the Palm Beach Medical Examiner's Office and are pending identification. A fetus was removed from one of the pregnant, deceased females. The Medical Examiner's Office issued a separate death certificate due to its potential viability.

Approximately 30 individuals were allegedly onboard the vessel before it sank. On May 15, 2009, 11 survivors on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Drummond, 10 males and one female and were brought ashore for processing by CBP. Nine migrants were transferred into the custody of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal and an additional four minors are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Two females and a newborn baby remain in area hospitals and are being monitored by CBP personnel. Five individuals are believed missing.

ICE's investigation resulted in survivors indicating that they paid to be brought to the United States.

The investigation was conducted by the ICE Office of Investigations in West Palm Beach with the assistance of Container Security Initiative (CSI) Office of Investigations in Freeport, Bahamas, CBP, the USCG, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell.