Boynton Beach police stop boat suspected of smuggling Dominicans

By Erika Pesantes

8:04 p.m. EDT, September 17, 2009

BOYNTON BEACH - The Boynton Beach Police Marine Unit stopped a speeding boat Thursday that is suspected of smuggling migrants, possibly from the Dominican Republic, authorities said.

Officers stopped the boat, which did not have a Florida registration number, around 2:30 p.m. when they saw it speeding in a slow speed zone in the Intracoastal Waterway, Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said.

The people on board did not speak English and they told an interpreter assisting police that they were from the Dominican Republic, she said.

Marine officers saw three people aboard, but searched the boat and found five others hiding in the cabin below. Boynton Beach marine officers alerted the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both agencies joined the suspect vessel in the Intracoastal off the 1500 block and just south of Boat Club Park.

The Coast Guard told Boynton Beach marine officers that it had stopped a similar boat off Palm Beach earlier in the day and that the incidents could possibly be related, Slater said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Barry Bena could not confirm if the suspect vessel had been previously stopped. He also said he did not know the conditions of the migrants, but they would be offered medical attention if necessary while being screened and interviewed.

No arrests were made in the case, according to ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez.

After about four hours floating on the waterway, the agencies' boats left through the Boynton Inlet along with the suspect vessel. The migrants were transferred over to a Coast Guard boat.

None of the agencies revealed where the migrants were being taken.
Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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