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U.S. Border Patrol, HSI & Coast Guard target Cuban smuggling operations

U.S. Border Patrol Station in Tampa, the only Border Patrol Station on Florida's west coast
U.S. Border Patrol Station in Tampa, the only Border Patrol Station on Florida's west coast
Photo by Kerry Marion

The United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa announced the indictment of six members of a for-profit criminal human smuggling organization that involved transporting Cuban nationals illegally across the U.S. maritime border to the west coast of Florida. The indictment follows a joint investigation that involved agents from the U.S. Border Patrol in Tampa, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The grand jury found probable cause to allege that Carlos Velazquez-Roman , Jasmine Santos-Martinez, Yoel Emilio Baez-Hernandez, Edel Mesa-Hernandez, Mario Emilio Tamayo-Mejias, and Amable Gonzalez-Mandin with conspiring to bring more than 100 illegal aliens into the United States, bringing illegal aliens into the U.S., transporting illegal aliens. The indictment also alleges that the conspirators also violated a federal regulation prohibiting departing U.S. waters with intent to enter Cuban waters without authorization. The federal investigation revealed that beginning on an unknown date prior to May 3, 2007 and continuing through at least May 15, 2013, all six individuals were part of a conspiracy to bring and attempt to bring more than 100 illegal aliens to the United States. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture at least $1,530,000, the proceeds of the criminal enterprise, a residence located at 4871 Kendsha Street, North Port, Florida, and a vessel registered to Velazquez-Roman. According to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, as reasserted under President Clinton’s “wetfoot/dryfoot” policy adopted pursuant to the 1994 Cuban mass exodus, Cuban nationals who arrive in the U.S. legally or illegally may remain in the U.S., and have the right adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the U.S. According to the Clinton Administration policy, those Cubans found at sea attempting to enter the U.S. illegally are subject to repatriation to Cuba. One principal concern facing the U.S. from a national security perspective regards the exploitability of these maritime smuggling enterprises by anti-American organizations with hostile intent, who may use Cuba as a transition point to enter and reside in the U.S. illegally.