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14730: Hermantin: Miami-Herald-Leader of Haitian smuggling group pleads guilty (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Fri, Feb. 07, 2003
Leader of Haitian smuggling group pleads guilty
BY CHARLES RABIN
Edner Dorvil, who prosecutors said was the ringleader of a group of
smugglers who brought 214 Haitians and Dominicans to the shores of Key
Biscayne last year, pleaded guilty Thursday to doing so for profit.
The guilty pleas by Dorvil and his associate, Sali Altanese Jean, just four
days before their trial was set to start mean all six men charged with
transporting the aliens during a dangerous four-day oceanic voyage in
October have been found guilty of conspiracy to bring people to the United
States for financial gain.
Dorvil and Jean will be sentenced in U.S District Court on April 22 and 23.
They agreed to the maximum sentence allowed under smuggling guidelines --
five years in prison, three years on probation and a $250,000 fine.
Tougher smuggling sentences have been handed out, but under different
In November, Miamian Jorge Aléman was sentenced to life in prison after
smuggling a group of Cubans, but one of his passengers died.
The four other men charged in the October boat trip -- Genel Osmin, Elie
Louis, Jean Phillip Petite-Homme and Jean Eddy Louis -- have pleaded guilty
to the same charges. Because they were not the organizers, all but Dorvil
are likely to receive lesser sentences, officials said.
With each smuggler pleading guilty to a lone conspiracy charge, the U.S.
Attorney agreed to drop individual smuggling charges for each refugee.
''There is no doubt the six individuals charged were involved in an illegal
activity for profit,'' U.S. Attorney Marcos Jiménez said. 'Our contention is
that all six on the boat placed the aliens' lives in danger.''
Dorvil's attorney, Bernie Pastor, declined to comment on his client's plea.
The government described Osmin as the disciplinarian aboard the ship.
Prosecutors said Dorvil paid Homme and Jean $5,000 each to steer the vessel
and gave Louis a $4,500 necklace for acting as a mechanic.
Jean was said to have been a pilot as well.
Prosecutors were able to put their case together in part with the help of a
ledger found aboard the boat. The government says the ledger was written by
The book contains the names of 123 passengers with varying amounts of money
-- in both U.S. dollars and Haitian gourdes -- next to the names. Jimenez
said some paid as much as $5,000 for the voyage. The average wage in Haiti
is $1 a day, but some immigrants probably got money for their passage from
relatives here, he said.
Osmin, one of the defendants, claimed he paid 2,000 gourdes -- just under
$60 -- and two goats. Others, Jimenez said, sold property.
Twelve of the refugees still in custody served as witnesses for the
prosecution. Though they will soon be back under INS supervision, they have
a better shot than the others at remaining here.
''I know I would endorse them for their cooperation,'' said John Woods, U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service section chief.
``I'm going to do my best to help them.''
On Oct. 29, 2002, as much of the nation watched on television, the refugees
who had departed from Haiti's Chouchou Bay and La Tortue jumped from a
ramshackle wooden boat into the shallow waters just off Key Biscayne.
Eventually 229 people were rounded up by the INS and other police agencies.
Fifteen who never made it off the vessel were sent back to Haiti.
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