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Frenchman Gets Two Years In Prison For Smuggling Nearly 40 Cubans Through St. John


CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A 71-year-old French national was sentenced to two years in federal prison for admitting to smuggling nearly 40 mostly Cuban migrants into the United States through St. John, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez on Friday sentenced Alain Rene Leichtnam of Montpellier, France to 24 months in prison for illegal migrant smuggling, United States Attorney Ronald Sharpe said.

Judge Gomez also ordered Leichtnam to serve two years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and pay a $3,800 special assessment.

On August 12, Leichtnam pleaded guilty to encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the United States in violation of law.

As part of his plea, Leichtnam admitted that on April 29, the sailing vessel Mazurka, operating with no lights, entered United States waters heading towards Coral Bay on the East End of St. John.

The vessel was intercepted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who observed Leichtnam operating the vessel and identified 38 Cuban nationals and one St. Lucian national onboard.

CBP agents observed that the vessel was grossly overloaded and did not have a sufficient number of life jackets and life rafts for the number of people onboard. Leichtnam admitted that he transports people to the United States for financial gain knowing that such conduct is unlawful.

“Those responsible for encouraging and inducing immigrants to enter the United States illegally are placing personal profit ahead of public safety and the lives of the immigrants,” Sharpe said. “This conviction should warn those involved in this dangerous and illegal activity that it comes with a high price.”

The case was investigated by ICE with the assistance of CBP and the United States Coast Guard. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Chisholm.

“ICE continues to be committed to putting an end to the practice of profiting from the illegal transportation of aliens across our borders and throughout our country,” said ICE special agent in charge Angel Melendez. “We will continue to vigorously enforce the federal laws which punish the many manifestations of the complex problem of smuggling, trafficking and harboring illegal aliens. Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip. Human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of human life and are only concerned about making a profit. ICE will continue to aggressively work with our U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners to identify and arrest those involved in this illicit and dangerous activity.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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