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    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Smugglers ferrying Chinese from Bahama to South Florida, feds say. They're using yac

    Smugglers ferrying Chinese from Bahamas to South Florida, feds say. They’re using yachts





    Jay Weaver

    ,Miami Herald•January 16, 2020


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    Smugglers ferrying Chinese from Bahamas to South Florida, feds say. They’re using yachts
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    Dozens of Chinese nationals without proper papers have been smuggled from the Bahamas to South Florida by operators of luxury yachts who are charging them thousands of dollars each for the short Atlantic journey, according to federal criminal cases.


    In recent instances, the Coast Guard stopped two vessels approaching the South Florida shore, leading to the arrests of three men accused of transporting a total of 26 Chinese passengers and one Bahamian, court records show. The alien smuggling operations were not related, however.


    Rocco Oppedisano, a 51-year-old Italian national, is scheduled for arraignment in Miami federal court Friday on charges of conspiring to transport aliens into the United States and bringing them here for financial gain.


    Oppedisano told a magistrate judge Wednesday that properties he once owned in the Northeast have been sold along with his Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Fiat vehicles to pay for legal costs over his immigration troubles.


    “All gone,” he told Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes, who assigned a private attorney at taxpayer expense to represent him.


    Oppedisano was stopped by the Coast Guard on Dec. 2 while he was commandeering a 63-foot Sunseeker yacht named INXS FINALLY with 14 Chinese passengers and one Bahamian, according to an indictment. Among the passengers was a Chinese national, Ying Lian Li, who was deported last April but tried to re-enter the country.


    Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Sattler said in the indictment that authorities seized the vessel as well as $172,000 in Bahamian dollars and $41,000 in U.S. dollars.


    It is unclear why these Chinese nationals — unlike Cubans and Haitians smuggled here in both go-fast and rickety boats in the past — sought to come to South Florida. But over the past five years, the Bahamas has experienced an influx of Chinese workers flocking to the archipelago as part of a push by China to invest in the country’s hotel, tourism and trade industries.


    In the other alien smuggling case, a Coast Guard cutter encountered a 70-foot Hatteras yacht about 20 miles east of South Florida on July 23, when officers radioed the vessel to ask how many people were on board. The yacht’s response: two crew and eight Japanese passengers with passports, who did not need additional visas to enter the United States.


    It was all a lie, according to a Homeland Security Investigations criminal affidavit.


    About 10 miles east of Port Everglades, Coast Guard officers boarded the yacht and asked crew member Robert L. McNeil Jr. to bring all the passengers on deck. The officers counted 12 passengers with passports from the People’s Republic of China but without required visas to enter the United States, according to the HSI affidavit.


    One of the Coast Guard officers asked McNeil why there were 12 Chinese nationals on board instead of the eight Japanese, as initially represented in the radio communications.


    McNeil said it must have been a misunderstanding and asked the Coast Guard officer, “Are we in trouble?” McNeil further said that he “worked with the underground railroad and anti-human trafficking and would never do anything wrong,” the affidavit said.


    The Coast Guard concluded that none of the 12 Chinese nationals possessed documents that would allow them to enter the United States legally. McNeil, and the yacht’s charter captain, James A. Bradford, along with the 12 Chinese nationals were transferred to the Coast Guard cutter.


    During questioning, Bradford said he left South Florida on the Hatteras yacht bearing the name CAREFREE on July 22 and arrived in Nassau, Bahamas, that day. He admitted that the purpose of the trip was to pick up a “tour group of aliens” in the Bahamas, transport them to South Florida and return to the Bahamas on July 26.


    Bradford, who has been a charter captain for decades, said “he never checked to see if the passengers had proper documents to come to the U.S.,” according to the affidavit.


    A search of the yacht uncovered 10 cellphones in the bridge area; none of the Chinese nationals had mobile phones on them.


    “Based on my knowledge and experience in human smuggling cases, smugglers often collect cell phones from migrants until they are paid for delivering the migrants to the U.S.” wrote HSI special agent David Jansen, who added that none of the passengers carried any luggage.


    The search also uncovered $118,100 hidden behind the wall paneling of the yacht’s master bedroom, the affidavit said. Investigators also seized more than $2,800 from McNeil.


    Both Bradford and McNeil were indicted on charges of conspiring to transport aliens into the United States and bringing them here for financial gain. To resolve his case, McNeil pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of alien smuggling to make a profit. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
    Bradford is awaiting trial in Fort Lauderale federal court.


    https://news.yahoo.com/smugglers-ferrying-chinese-bahamas-south-110000056.html









    Last edited by Beezer; 01-16-2020 at 11:05 AM.
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