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Boat Captain Jailed In Fatal Migrant Smuggling

CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, FL, Tues. June 23, 2009: A 63-year-old Dominican boat captain will spend the next nine-and-a-half years in federal prison for the deadly 2008 smuggling of some 40 migrants.

Crecencio Hernandez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch on a charge of conspiring to encourage and induce illegal aliens to enter the United States without permission, resulting in the death of six aliens.

Prosecutors had alleged that on Oct. 24, 2008, a wooden rustic vessel with approximately 40 foreign nationals from the Dominican Republic and Brazil sailed from the coastal city of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic and headed toward Miami.

Hernandez had agreed with the Dominican organizers of the trip to captain the vessel. The purpose of the trip was to smuggle the passengers into the U.S. through Miami. Hernandez admitted that he knew that his passengers were not U.S. citizens and nationals, and that they did not have permission to enter the country. Hernandez also admitted that he steered the vessel, helped navigate the route, directed the crew, and ordered the passengers to maintain calm.

On Oct. 31, 2008, the wooden vessel hit a sandbar off the shore of Virginia Key. The boat tipped over and most of the passengers and crew jumped into the water and began swimming to shore. The weather was windy; the waters were rough; and the passengers, having been at sea for eight days with little water and food, were tired and weak. Six male passengers died trying to swim to the shore. Subsequently, ICE special agents conducted a criminal investigation that resulted in the Nov. 7, 2008, arrest and charges of Hernandez.

His prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release.