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Coast Guard Nabs 2 Smugglers After It Stops Illegal Voyage Near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN — The Coast Guard returned 10 Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic between Tuesday and Wednesday, following the interdiction of an illegal voyage in Mona Passage waters near Mona Island.

Two other men, Dominican Republic nationals, are facing federal criminal prosecution in Puerto Rico on migrant smuggling charges. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecution in this case.

The interdiction is the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG.

“For those considering taking part in an illegal migrant voyage across the Mona Passage, don’t take to the sea,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.  “You will be repatriated and returned to your country of origin or could even face possible prosecution.  This is a dangerous and perilous voyage, and it is just not worth placing your life in the hands of smugglers who have no regard for your safety or well-being.  These voyages most often take place in dangerous sea states, aboard grossly overloaded and unseaworthy vessels that have no lifesaving equipment.”

During a routine patrol of the Mona Passage Sunday, the crew of a Customs and Border Protection CBP Marine Enforcement Aircraft detected a suspect illegal migrant vessel voyage, approximately five nautical miles west of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon that arrived on-scene and stopped the 25-foot makeshift boat. The vessel was transporting nine men and three females, including two adult women and a 15-year-old minor. The crew of cutter Richard Dixon safely embarked the migrants and later transferred them to the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants received food, water, shelter, and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with Personal Protective Equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19. No migrants were reported to have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico received custody of the two suspected smugglers.

Cutters Richard Dixon and Joseph Tezanos are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

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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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