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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE arrests second boat captain linked to the death of 10 migrants

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents arrested yesterday Jean Morange Nelson, 32, a Haitian citizen, in connection with the failed migrant smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of 10 Haitian nationals on May 13, 2009.

Nelson was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy and alien smuggling, which resulted in the death of various migrants. In addition, on May 18, ICE special agents in West Palm Beach arrested Jimmy Metellus, 33, a Haitian citizen, on the same charges. On May 29, ICE agents arrested Harold Anglin, a Jamaican citizen, on charges of illegal re-entry into the U.S. after deportation by an alien convicted of a felony.

Metellus and Nelson were two of the captains of the migrant smuggling vessel that sank off the Palm Beach County coast during the morning of May 13, 2009. The complaint alleges that Nelson, Metellus and two other captains left the Bahamas on May 9 on a boat with Haitian migrants bound for the United States. The boat began to have 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, including Anglin, were reloaded on the boat, and the boat departed for the United States. In the early morning hours of May 13, a good Samaritan reported to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) seeing people in the water approximately 16 miles east of Palm Beach County.

After a massive search and rescue operation conducted by the USCG, 16 survivors were found, including Metellus and Nelson. Ten deceased have been identified as having been on the boat. The deceased included two adult males, six adult females, one infant, and one unborn viable fetus. None of the survivors had visas or other travel documentation for legal admission into the United States, nor were any such documents found in the nearby waters.

If convicted on the charges, the maximum penalty for Nelson and Mettellus is up to 20 years imprisonment and a possible sentence of death.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman commended the efforts of ICE's Office of Investigations in West Palm Beach with the assistance of Container Security Initiative (CSI) Office of Investigations in Freeport, Bahamas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Field Operations and CBP Air and Marine, the USCG Seventh Coast Guard District, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for their work in the search and rescue and the subsequent criminal investigation of this matter.

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Bell and Adrienne Rabinowitz.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.