PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance, on Wednesday, convicted six persons of attempted human-smuggling, but membership in a criminal organisation was not found proven.
The five men and one woman were all found guilty of involvement in two operations aimed at smuggling groups of Haitians and persons of other nationalities to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) between February 1 and July 12, 2015.
Membership in a criminal organisation was not found proven, as the cooperation between the suspects had been of a “variable” nature.
On June 22, 2015, the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) was tipped off that Grand Boss’ organisation was planning a human-smuggling operation from Dutch St. Maarten. All suspects were caught red-handed while they were transporting large groups of immigrants or hiding them in several homes. The case involved four suspects with Haitian nationality and two others from the Dominican Republic.
Kerlin Cadet is the only woman among the suspects and is considered the key figure and “spider” in the organisation’s “web.” Together with co-suspect Mainardy Fana Vasquez (32) she received the severest penalty of four years, two of which were suspended, on three years’ probation.
The Prosecutor’s Office had requested four years, one of which to be suspended, on two years’ probation, for these two organisers of the shipments.
The organisation allegedly was led Cadet’s boyfriend, who is also known as “Grand Boss,” the Prosecutor said during the March-second hearing in this case. The big boss was not held as he was not on the island when the other suspects were arrested.
Kadet’s neighbour Levis Denis (55) received 18 months, nine of which were suspended, on three years’ probation. Another neighbour of hers, Thovar Felix (50) was sentenced to 12 months, six of which were suspended, on three years’ probation.
The Prosecutor had demanded 18 months, nine of which were to be suspended, on two years’ probation, for giving shelter to illegal immigrants.
Jean Maurice Destin (49) and bus driver Andre Paulino Paulino (58) were also involved in the operation.
All suspects were held in detention, except for the bus driver, whose detention was suspended on October 23, 2015. Paulino was sentenced to 12 months, nine of which were suspended, on three years’ probation and 240 hours of community service.
It had been recommended to sentence Paulino to four months, three of which were to be suspended, on two years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. Destin received 12 months, six of which were suspended on three years’ probation.
Led before the Judge, all suspects denied their involvement in human-smuggling operations on June 24, 2015, and July 12, 2015. Fana Vasquez came clean, but not entirely as he only confessed to his involvement in one shipment.
In sentencing, the Court said the defendants had contributed to the “illegal circuit” by smuggling illegal immigrants into and out of St. Maarten/St. Martin. “This corrupts society and disrupts the legal order,” the Judge said.
It was not found proven that the suspects acted on humanitarian grounds and had earned considerable amounts of money with the operations.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office the illegal immigrants paid between US $2,000 and $2,500 for their shipment to St. Thomas and other US Virgin Islands. They acted to make a profit, which should be taken into account in meting out their punishments, the Judge said. He also ordered the confiscation of mobile phones, SIM cards and cash.
Source: The Daily Herald Six convicted of human-smuggling